Post Road Magazine #26

Poco a Poco

Betsy Sholl

Yellow practice books with their stammer names,
Buxtehude, Beethoven. And clumped notes,
dense thickets, weeds stuck to a fence,

fingers or vines—burr-tangles of stop-start,
try harder, hack through, and always
at the same place: blocked,

as if somebody at a gate or just the gate,
said, "No. Not you." Some stupid password:
boy, blanket, battery, Bach. Stupid keys

stupid fingers bang till the strings tremble,
then toss the book, but the notes don't shake loose.
Notes or birds, flashing past, out of reach,

calling, "So long, sucker." Sucker
with stuck mouth, stuck piano. Or girl
wanting a splintery ruin. So much

racket there's a stillness after. A bird
calls. Not pretty, but it gets an answer.
So, there's try again—on tiptoe then,

finger by key, ear bent close, careful
not to disturb, like first wobbly letters
written down, As & Bs before words,

notes before music, one hand before two,
till—poco a poco—finger-peck
at seeds, first a few, then a flock

as outside sparrows back and forth
yard to yard don't hesitate a second
flying through holes in the neighbor's fence.

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