Saturday, May 15, 2010

A 440

This poem is from Jane Shore's most recent book, A Yes-or-No Answer: Poems, published in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

A squatter in my parents' house,
their Baldwin Acrosonic spinet
didn't leave home until my father died,
and having nowhere else to go,
was shipped here to my living room.

After ten years' sitting, it's out of tune,
the A mute, the damper pedal broken,
the B above middle C sunken in,
the battered walnut veneer embossed
like a notary's raised stamp.

The piano tuner unpacks the tools
stored in his rolling suitcase.
Sweeping generations of photos
from the dusty lid – Russian relatives,
my daughter's school portraits –

he stacks sheet music on the coffee table,
pulls out a silvery tuning fork
from his left breast pocket, bangs it
against his balding skull, holds it
to his good right ear, and listens hard,

refreshing his ear to the sound of A
above middle C, the piano's axis mundi.
I should leave, but mesmerized,
I watch his hairy arm and left hand
disappear inside the piano's innards,

cranking the tuning hammer this way
and that, moving the rubber mutes
along the strings, a little sharp,
a little flat, up and down the scale
while his right hand strikes the keys.

Two hours later, when he's gone,
on the piano bench lies a bill
twice higher than his estimate;
the lid wiped clean, the photos
approximate to where they were,

and also, fished out of the piano,
there's a three of clubs from a deck
I threw out years ago,
five pennies turned pewter gray,
a condolence card, the envelope

sealed with crackled yellow glue.
Its sender, now, has passed on, too.
It's been decades since I practiced
Für Elise or banged out torch songs
from 1000 Standard Tunes,

fakebook my father finagled from
his old musician buddies,
the boys he used to play with
in the big bands.
When I lost my father, I lost music.

When my daughter took lessons,
I'd sit beside her on the bench
just as my father once sat with me,
encouraging, correcting, wincing,
but I wouldn't play a single note.

The church bells across the street
begin to toll the quarter hour –
dividing my day, every day,
into bite-size intervals,
from seven in the morning

until seven at night, another
axis mundi.  I find the key
and, instrument in tune, peck out
the melody to the first
Duet for Church Bells and Piano, opus 1.
- Jane Shore

Related website:
The Music Lovers Poetry Anthology


Negi said...

Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you

Piano Movers