Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Cold Piano Octave (Plus a Fifth)

by Sara Backer

I was what they call a proficient amateur:
polyphonic Bach inventions, brooding Chopin preludes,
the presto impromptus of Schubert.

I bought my Yamaha U-3 before I bought my first car,
and practiced daily, even through graduate school. 
Teaching in Japan, I stopped: three years out of touch. 

On my return, my weakened fingers
no longer channeled the magic. 

I knew what exercises to do, but my lost skill,
so far below the music in my mind,
prevailed over recovering Beethoven’s Moonlight.

My piano, slightly out of tune, wastes away
in the cold room as if in a coma. Selfish, I hang on
to the imposing walnut finish of a lost spirit,

refusing to relinquish the body out of shame and crazy hope
when, on stray August evenings, I attempt Brahms’ Intermezzo:
struggling to align thick whispered chords

into their rightful grandeur, fumbling tricky accidentals
in the turbulent minor middle,
pursuing with calando a revival of grace in A.

* * * * *
Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press 2019) follows two chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press) and Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork). Her writing was recently honored with a prize in the 2019 Plough Poetry Competition. She teaches at UMass Lowell, and lives in the Merrimack River watershed amid white pines, red oaks, and black bears. Website:

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