She plays piano in an upper room
in the only unhaunted house in town.
Her calloused fingertips caress
the flats and sharps, the keys
like knife blades arrayed before her,
the dried blood long worn off
by hours of arpeggios, staccatos, and trills.
Sometimes she sings, but usually
she listens, mimics with fingers spread
the sound of the oak’s shadow pressing
the window, or the soft turning
of her husband in sleep.
As she plays she works
to see stars through the ceiling,
to reproduce the faces
of her grandchildren behind
the walls of other houses
in other towns, to hit
the note exactly
as the telephone rings,
and when it doesn’t ring, to pause
precisely and sustain.
With hands crossed, she can make
the sun rise, again and again,
never the same, panta rhei,
with the soft hammering of thumbs,
the interval between then and now.
In the angle of her wrists
the pulse of an ovation,
but she continues to play,
refusing to take a bow.
Editor’s Note: This poem highlights that moment all artists crave—zen, flow, being in the zone—while also delicately speaking of the danger of its call.