A riff on the nocturne, with reference to Chopin’s Opus 9 No. 2. But any reference Chopin takes me straight back to my childhood.
Summer nights long ago. I was five.
The day’s heat finally waning, moths thwacking
against the screen door. The lamplight
closing us in was low. You played on from memory.
It was the summer after dad died.
You practiced for hour upon hour upon hour.
You did the etudes, moved on to Rachmaninoff,
and always Chopin, the piano god.
You were trying to figure out your future
furiously – be it in science, concert hall
or literature. All were not an option.
You were only fourteen after all.
But you knew that life was short,
could and did end abruptly.
You did have strong hands,
strong enough to play Chopin
who must have had abnormally large hands
judging by the hand span needed
for his compositions, our mother commented.
You were stretching yourself.
You made it into your future,
now lead the family as is the wont
of elder sisters. This is
the ancient pattern and just.
So you are nearly halfway to one hundred and forty
(As we traditionally birthday greet
in our family.) Still practicing,
playing the church organ. But I, as the baby
Halfway to one hundred and twenty
well aware our father only made it
only halfway to ninety, we all know
that it can be Good night, God bless
anytime now. The stats bat against us.
Given how endings can be abrupt,
how hollowing. And absence
the pervading music that plays on