Melodies

After half a century,
You and I could pass each other
On the street
Without a glint of recognition.
But every time I listen to a Chopin polonaise
Or one of Billie’s songs,
The memories come flooding back.
I’m in your bedroom in the Bronx,
Perched on the edge of your bed,
Eating your wizened zayde’s
Paprikash
And sipping tea from
China cups with royal crests.
A cascade of notes
Soars from the baby grand,
Your fingers hovering
Above the keys
Like hummingbirds.
You pause to brush aside
A strand of ash blond hair
Which has fallen in your eyes
And dry your moist palms
With the handkerchief
You always keep at hand.
Your mother peeks in,
Ostensibly to monitor your progress
But really to make certain
Our four feet are on the floor.

Later that day,
Our legs are dangling
From a stone parapet
In Central Park.
We watch the mallards navigate
A flotilla of discarded condoms,
Their brilliant green heads
Bobbing up and down
Like buoys.
You press your hand against my cheek
And sing, in flawless English,
He’s not much on looks,
He’s no hero out of books,
But I love him.
En is szeretlek, I say, I love you too,
The only words you ever taught me
In Hungarian.

Ah, my luscious Marike,
You lost your heart to me
But not your cherry
You gave that to an older pianist
With an apartment in the Village.
I didn’t even own a car
With a comfortable back seat.
As for the melodies you played and sang,
Still tone deaf fifty years on,
I can recognize but not repeat them.
Wherever this poem finds you,
At Carnegie or in suburbia,
I remain, as always,
Your rapt audience of one.

(originally published in Cyclamens and Swords)

 

pianist

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