Literary Hook: ‘Piano Lessons’ … ‘drawn toward a startling luminescence’
By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet
Whenever I hear “Rhapsody in Blue” —
its high notes fluttering like cabbage moths,
its twisted and turbulent augmentations —
I feel the kind, thin, succulent-veined hand
of Mrs. Christiansen, my piano teacher,
brushing my right wrist,
settling like an elfin moth.
She’s affirming my meager meanderings
on the cherry wood piano that smells
of Lemon Pledge. She’s with me all the way
Making-Music-Is-Such-Fun to Blue Nocturne.
She’s snapping her sallow, freckled fingers
to that “Dog Gone Boogie”
(which I probably put out of its misery).
She’s nodding, tight-lipped and wide-eyed
as my short, but nimble, fingers flayed out
“The Flight of the Bumble Bee”
(the bee slightly tipsy).
Her hand is drawn up to her neck
during Autumn Leaves
(which I probably pruned the life out of).
Any Rimsky-Korsakov or Tchaikovsky
sent her into glazed-over Buddhahood.
Dear Mrs. Christiansen, who recognized
another hopeless romantic when she saw one,
who had the good sense to know
I’d never make it to virtuoso. Because of her,
I have loved the piano ever since,
no matter how unmagnificent the solos to my cat might be.
In those years before our bodies blistered out of control —
hers with cancer that turned her skin to beeswax,
mine ajar with hormones and pheromones so potent
I lost my taste for music and went fortissimo for boys —
we enjoyed each other’s company,
bedazzled, drawn toward a startling luminescence.
Poem by Christine Swanberg, published in Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity, Wind Publications, Nicolas, Ky. Also published in PoetsWest.
Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.
From the April 23-29, 2014, issue