He came to our apartment twice a year
to tune my mother's piano. All day long
we tiptoed, trying not to interfere
with what to us were strange, unearthly songs.
He never struck a heavy, luscious chord—
only fifths, fourths, octaves—clean and spare;
brandishing his hammer like a sword,
we watched him wring concordance from the air.
Taut as pulled wire, he'd lean into the keys,
his practiced fingers pressing note on note,
hunting down aberrant harmonies
and any latent quaver in the throat.
At last the piano, gaping and undone,
its very heart exposed for all to see,
would wait in silence, chastened as a nun,
for the blasphemies of Chopin and Satie.
From Troika (Thorntree Press, 1991).
Used here with the author's permission.