This poem originally appeared in the DSCH Journal.
At a school with no firewood, three years of hunger
Rolled up in his trouser legs, mourning a father
Who’d gone out for bread and come back with pleuritis,
He found only music spoke other than nonsense.
The future, for now, meant his mid-term assignment.
An unbroken metronome rapped out his target.
A pair of pianos are only together
As ships in a port are: One looks at one’s neighbour
Through two sets of rigging. But such enforced space
Makes messages out of the phrases they trade,
And their dialogue tweaks at the world’s comprehension
Like snippets of Polish as heard by a Russian.
A march - but to where? Never mind. It dissolves
Into shimmering steps, like a rumour of jazz.
Two dancers spring up under bayonet blades.
Two circles of ripples spread, mingle and fade.
Two grope in the dark, tap in code, ring in light,
Till the marchers reenter to usher them out.
Correct it, said his teacher. His first mastered lesson
Was in modified seconds: An examiners’ version,
And one to be played in his chamber to friends,
Each wondering how much the rest understood.
While one space was closed, he would work in another
While no one was watching. It couldn’t last forever.