The Piano

by Mariah Whelan

after Rebecca Horn’s sculpture ‘Concert for Anarchy’

Of all the stupid things I bought with your money
worst of them was the piano, a big black grand
far too big for our cottage, seeming to tip the floor,
upend what little light made it through our windows.

I had every intention of learning how to play it,
wiped dust from the keys, paid a man to keep it tuned,
rubbed the wood with a mixture of linseed and turps
using a special soft cloth just right for its grain.

I don’t know if it got heavier or the house weaker,
I would go to bed at night and feel its weight
tugging whole rooms towards the foundations,
lay in my bed listening to roof struts groan.

I think you occupied our marriage like that,
upending rooms, eating what little light got in—
moved through me like bass notes, a thumping hammer
that hung on in this house long after the lid was shut.

Voice in my head, terminal note, why are you still here
after all this stripping back, these ripped out keys—
why can’t I break this habit of speaking you into being,
loving your absence, silences that make you real?