A House With Music In It

You step into the house
and hear the music,
stop, breath held,
push the door shut behind you,
lower the groceries to the floor,
hoping the bag won’t crinkle,
and stand, eyes shut,
taken so far from sounds
of the world outside,
as if it doesn’t exist.
There is only, in the other room,
piano, player, and the music,
passing through your pores,
penetrating your heart,
lodging there so deep,
it’s hard to imagine
a time it wasn’t there,
or there might come another
when you walk in to nothing,
his hands not on the keys,
no magic in his fingers,
vibration of the twisted strands of metal
the silence emptier
for what it used to hold.


Love Notes

She comes home
from a morning out,
finds on the kitchen counter
a note in his shaky hand:
“I love you,”
her full name
on the line below,
and, beneath that,
taking up half the page,
his name, signed,
first and last,
as if he was sixteen
wanting to let
the world know
what he’d discovered
and couldn’t keep secret.
She finds the same note
all over the house:
on the bathroom counter,
the dining room table,
one beside him in the study
where he sits at the computer.
She comes up behind him,
puts her arms
around his shoulders,
slides her cheek
next to his:
“I love you too;”
saying his name,
first and last,
and, nuzzling his ear,
smiles as she adds her own,
the one her parents gave her
and the one they’ve shared
for all these years.
He turns his head toward her.
In his look she sees
he doesn’t know
what she’s talking about.
She picks the note up
that sits beside him,
kisses it,
holds it in front
for him to see—
still no response,
his face as blank
as the computer screen
he’s been staring at.


My Father, Humming, II

I’m at my father’s piano,
playing a piece
he used to play,
but not the way
he played it,
not, he’s sure, the way
Herr Beethoven intended.
He’s hearing it,
not sleeping as he often is,
and he’s not happy with it.
Before, he would have
yelled out “Stop!”
or booed, or yowled,
“You’re trying to kill me!”
He’s not saying much these days.
Before I’ve played five notes,
he’s choking, loud and drastic.
Stop now, I think,
call 9-1-1,
then rush up,
see what I can do.
The caretaker is there
she’s raised the bed,
he’s sitting upright,
nothing else to do,
let him work it through.
I keep playing.
The choking gets
louder, more alarming,
a rattle in the throat,
as if this is the end.
My stomach tightens,
but I don’t stop—
and this goes on a while,
duet for a son
playing on his father’s piano
while his father
gasps his last.
But then the choking lets up,
gets quieter,
changes to a cough,
more like the clearing of a throat,
and stops.
He’s still,
and I’m still playing.
I take a breath, relax;
as I go on, I hear,
so faint at first
I’m not sure what I’m hearing:
mmm mmmm, mmm mmmm—
he’s humming, tunelessly,
along with me,
the way he used to
when he was playing.
It gets stronger, surer;
there’s no mistaking it—
and we go on like this,
the two of us,
making music,
until the piece is done.


Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusVisit Us On Youtube