The Upright

P1000798 (2)

I waited a long time for my first piano.
While I waited, at six, I played “Pickin’ Up Pawpaws” and “Mares Eat Oats”
On the unyielding surface of a glazed enamel kitchen table,
My voice moving the notes around in the right place.

I waited for my first piano at eight, playing the shoebox keyboard I had drawn,
Its octaves taped with Daddy’s silver duct tape.

 I waited for my own piano at eleven and played the real one at school,
Miss Rhem popping my knuckles when I made mistakes.
While I waited, I learned new songs from the radio and
Walked them down the road to Aunt ’Cile’s house.
(Aunt ’Cile wasn’t my aunt but she had a piano.)
“Play this song for me to sing, Aunt ’Cile.”
“Honey, I don’t know that song,” she said.
“Listen, Aunt ’Cile, I’ll teach it to you.”
While she learned it, I sang it.

My piano came at Christmas when I was thirteen,
A rebuilt, mahogany upright with a mirror,
Paid for, like Daddy paid the doctor when I was born,
With shad sales.

I played that piano hard
And sang my dreams through the open windows.
All my music ran across the road to Rodger’s house,
Up the road to Papa’s house, and
He’d come asking me to play his favorites.
“The Ninety and Nine” and “Onward Christian Soldiers”
Marched, as I did, to the rhythm in those ivory keys.

 Thwarted dreams and wishes wafted compliantly into song at that piano.
Seven children and several grands have played our dreams out sitting on that bench.

Now the piano waits for family dinners and holidays
And thirty-three people to sing “Amazing Grace.”

 

 

6 comments

  1. Ptc,

    Fine poetry. I feel it.

    “the unyielding surface of a glazed enamel kitchen table”

    It creates a sense of the longing those fingers felt for ivory.

    “My voice moving the notes around in the right place.”

    Every line evokes a strong and positive reaction.

    “I played that piano hard

    And sang my dreams through the open windows.”

    There is a fervor to these lines..

    “Thwarted dreams and wishes wafted compliantly into song at that piano.”

    Amazing Grace indeed!

    As fine a poem as any poetry enthusiast could ever ask for.

    Yes! I love it!

    Sarah

    Like

  2. Hi Ptc

    I really like the wait you describe your attainment of the piano, a gift from your father earned by patience, longing and practice on things you imagined into music. That , in itself, is a gift. this poem shows the spirit of appreciation and how that dedication to a craft and a dream comes to fruition. The voice is in this piece is sincere, authentic and these lines touched me —

    “A rebuilt, mahogany upright with a mirror,
    Paid for, like Daddy paid the doctor when I was born,
    With shad sales”

    The image of the refurbished piano also mirrors the reflective quality of an ideal a person is willing to wait and work toward. The idea of bartering one service for another shows a kinder side to humanity we have forgotten in our modern world not to mention a practical side as well.

    Lovely work!
    Thank you
    Wendy

    Like

    • Wendy, your response gives me encouragement to write the next poem. You are the only person who has ever commented on the “uprightness” of the piano and mirroring a quality of a person. Thank you for seeing that.
      ptc

      Like

  3. A most moving write Ptc. I can see in my mind’s the small girl, growing longing for her piano. Good things come to those who wait. Says a lot about you and your Dad. Enjoyed immensely.

    Regards,

    Maryse

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    • Thank you, Maryse, for seeing the connection between my father and me. He had that connection with each of the seven. Your words inspire.
      ptc

      Like

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