September 4th, 2008

poetry, exceptindreams

285: The Piano Speaks

“The Piano Speaks”
Shira Erlichman

For the musicians staying at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA

I am the mental hospital piano and I have seen hands.
Yes, you would call them hands, but I call them night-creatures
clasping chords in their teeth, translucent spiders cooing dawn home.
I've been touched by black boil-fettered fingers fat as tarantulas,
let me tell you about the spiders I've seen…

These are not hands, these are sky-scouting web-weavers.
These are not hands, these are teeth and eyes, and fingers like legs,
running, jumping, leaving, they are the quiet legs of children standing after being left,
they are the hospital-socked shuffling arrivals at 2 a.m. come to sleep in aluminum beds.
I have heard them speak in the language of pressed flowers; take me home.

And I remember every single last one of them:
Shamanistic surgeons, they tore music out of me with a rusty knife.
Dogs the color of urine, they howled hymns
in neon hospital moonlight. Heroin-blooded teenagers who wet the bed
they were so terrified of their hallucinations, they smoked me instead
and got higher than Jesus. I remember those towering monuments to loneliness
you call hands—they were peacocks spreading in front of me
and I saw their coats of bruises, they sang like the dying,
sang like a choir of prophets in jail, sang like mothers to children,
sang like they knew I had snow in my ribcage
and they weren't going to leave my side until I cracked open
like the pomegranate sky I was and poured out white seeds of heaven.

They wanted me honest. They liked me honest which is to say I was broken.
Nobody on staff fixed my raspy keys.
My notes remained sour and they played me like loving:
unlearned, without a how-to-book—played me solemn,
played me like hyenas laughing, like praying, like tortoises making at loving,
slow and fevered and with their eyes closed.
They were dirty, with scratched knees and beautiful toothy smiles
and sunglasses in the daytime, and though some were old, they were all ancient,
they were all legends for sleeping in hell while others walked through and got out.
They played symphonies that tore-down the walls
so drugged up hall-walkers fled their loneliness and joined in the fever.
They played onetime, completely improvised, endless and sky-scraping AIDS cures,
they played healing and they tore off their tourniquets for me to kiss
their bloody wildfires.

I have never belonged to opera-houses or your mother's cushy living room.
I live with those who bang daylight out of moondust,
now you tell me how you do that unless you are built of magic.
They study their own burning bodies.
They transcribe smoke signals and tear the lightning
from their throats like alley-cat cries.
I have heard five-tongued creatures smash sunrise into pulp.
I have seen rhododendrons blossom thunderously
with the quiet hope and hunger of living and dying
as they play and bloom and smash and burn.
And you call them hands,
you call them hands.

(This is completely unrelated.) What has been the best thing about your day so far?