David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Piano Center Stage

January 4, 2016

I wish to devote January's blogs to associations with my family, especially my father, who would have been 84 at the end of this month.  Eventually, he can lead to some observations about education, since he lit that path for me.  But for this week, I need to start at the beginning:


Piano Center Stage

As the curtain rises, spotlight falls on a bit player,

A smooth-talking slick-haired Sid,

Nightclub musician, charlatan by his own admission,

Sliding off his bench, pocketing the tip jar change,

Sneaking off in the dead of night with another man’s wife

And her kid.

Destination to be determined by phone booth discussions,

Sought after positions as creditors sought after him,

The only qualification: somewhere far from Maryland.

To my father, hacking and breathing heavily,

Was any destination farther than Montana?

As he listened to his mother bad-mouth his father,

Did he see the irony of Great Falls as their final landing place?


Scene two, a dark-haired beauty, self-conscious of her teeth,

And the train tracks to be crossed,

Sits on the bench, concentrates on the score,

While the red-haired, fur-coated Dervish teaches her scale,

Dog in one arm, diamonds in the other

(only the dog not on potential lien).

The hacking and breathing heavily kid races up the stairs:

Does the dark-haired pupil glance subtly, sigh and press the keys harder?

I suspect he is mostly oblivious to the power of the instrument

That fills up and hangs in the air.

Meanwhile she can’t help but think about him way up there.


Cut to scene twenty-years on,

Their boy on the bench

Clanging painfully keys that don’t speak to me,

Nonsensical, as the notes hammered home

By bespectacled rock stars consume my every moment.

I wish I could say my indifference to the grand or the upright,

Was a conscious reaction to hands held tight as the secretive couple

Snuck off in the middle of the Maryland night?

Yet these are not the epiphanies afforded

To children simply bored by what isn’t easy.

It would take many notes, early scraps of poetry,

To bring to me my unsettling reality:

I am only alive because of their cross-country drive.

If they don’t share a forbidden kiss, I don’t exist

But not in the usual genetic mix,

Instead a generational skip.

And I have missed my chance to turn all that drama into song.


Final post-script scene perhaps putting a damper on things:

A stolen piano --

Another charlatan

Losing our heirloom

On transport across the country.

You have to laugh.