The Old Piano
Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut. *
Dust swirls up from the broad slat floor.
It dances in streaks of dim sunlight
From clouded windows, twirling toward
The upright in the shadowy back corner,
Pulling me toward the upright in the back corner.
The keys are covered by the mahogany lid.
I write “PIANO” with my finger in the dust
Then erase it with my palm and regret it.
I wipe the grime from my palm onto my blue jeans,
Leaving a gray-tan streak, and uncover the keys.
Everyone plays middle-C; I choose A.
The hammer strikes the old string,
Which rings, twangs, groans, plunks.
The note pulses in my ears, through the piano,
Vibrating the other A strings,
Through the room, swirling with the dust.
I add C# but then play C instead.
I look around for a bench, a stool, a chair.
I see a 3-legged stool that should have 4.
My fingers find the notes I know in my head.
The honky-tonk tone of the neglected strings
Dissolves as the music surrounds me, fills the room.
I wish I could say that the music makes the dust clear
And the sun shine brighter through the windows.
When it’s finished, the last chord rings
Until it is muted, swallowed by the gloom.
I close the cover on the keys,
Letting it thud shut.
* The first 2 lines are from "Church Going," from The Less Deceived by Philip Larkin (Marvell Press, 1955)