baby grand

by

my father showed me how a piano could cleave a room
like a fault line, how a dance could keep you deathless:
the eighty-eight teeth in a piano’s mouth chewing up
 
strips of sheet music like so many pieces of bubblegum.
my father had pounded his fingers into skeleton keys
and molded their locks out of smooth ebony and ivory.
 
he wore ragtime like a coat and sipped jazz like hot
tea with lemon and spice, danced his way across the
underground platform because there was a sort of music
 
written on his bones, notes wrapped like handcuffs
around his wrists, rhythms coursing through his
syncopated veins. his piano was his cross and he bore it
 
through windy city december, from hubbard street
down to west belmont, his face reflecting neon light,
his body buzzing with the notes of the trumpets
 
like a hot vibrato on his skin. my father’s only altar
was a midnight jazz joint; music was his finest language
so I couldn’t blame him if he cursed arpeggios all up
 
and down our kitchen walls, couldn’t blame him
if his magic fingers twisted in my mother’s hair to
make music that was sour as a dying trombone,
 
couldn’t blame his “please, i’m trying to practice,
just leave me alone, my music, i’m sorry, my music.”