A Lesson

At the piano, made to clutch lemons,
rocking them over the black keys,
I learned to curl my fingers.
Later I shared the lonely bench
with my mother, playing duets
into a Schubert’s afternoon of marches,
one after the other, not knowing
the piano could be so full of sound.
I swelled with the discovery,
lulled in our common time,
while all around seemed summer
in perpetuum, yards full of light,
the city and the trees and the robins full of light,
peonies blooming to the black ants
assembled in their fragrant leaves.

What is thirty-five years
if I still curl my fingers?

This evening, by the gate,
I noticed the strawberry vine
coming up through the throat
of the little mugo, choking it,
without fruit. It is like that sometimes,
familiarity breeds discontent, but
leaves the doors unlocked.
I stare out across the evening yard,
long into November’s black keys.

It was a Tuesday when you went out.
Since then,
the shadow of my sorrow has grown
into a whole night, cold,
cold under the maple,
the maple bejeweled and waiting,
waiting for nothing in the crimson dark.

first published in The Dunes Review, 2004.

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