Sunday, September 8, 2019

september work.

What is the work?
Is it to learn the piano? To get it tuned first, to find the man, to call the man, to leave the message.

My aunts both had pianos no one played. I studied their houses; both had velvet sofas, they always had drinks. I always either tended bar, learning to light matches or, I played the piano to the extent permissible. I liked to make moody music, depress the petal and pound the lowest keys. Perhaps I was learning abstraction then. There was a very dark and thick oil painting of a swampy woods in one aunt's piano room and I thought; Yes, this is right.

I find a piano teacher but she's not the right one. I tell her I play by ear and she says I need to learn the math of counting time. She attempts to decode 4-4 time for me then 3-4 time and I look around her living room at all the framed photos; an array of nephews in suits. Her piano is upright; shiny black and I can tell it is well oiled, easy-playing like a new casio. She invites me to her church via text message some days later. I imagine myself going, which is to say I wonder about what a woman like me wears to a church in the leatherstocking region of NY State on any given Sunday.

The keys on this mahogany grand piano are ivory and sour sounding. I inherited it some years ago. It has served as an oversized plant stand. The tuner, when he comes, says it is likely impossible to tune. Many of the wires are rusted and could break when winched. We negotiate slowly over the potential broken strings. Each string will cost $40 to replace. I see this is gambling. I say, lets plan to stop after 4 strings break and we'll reassess. (I would have gone higher.) I think, well he's no fun in bed.

Listening to a piano being tuned is a tedious tour through the swamp of ones unconscious. Which is to say, unpleasant. I continually winced. The tuner comes twice.

Some of the work now is now to find the right teacher. I think, she must be old and wear a lot of heavy silver and she must fall in love with me.

Other work is housekeeping, sure. I do this a handful because it's nice to give ourselves some easy work. Everyone I love is always trying to get me to make lists.

But then more work is to accept it, the golden rod, breaking in bright waves, insisting on September.
What happens on the outside, also on the inside.
Each time we get to choose; we can look around and say what will I save and bring forward and what will I let be finished?


Sarah said...

Lovely and thoughtful, as usual. Have you, by chance, read 'Becoming' by Michelle Obama? I ask because .... in the first chapter she writes about learning to play the piano when she was a little girl. Her teacher was her great aunt who was somewhat cranky and old and had an older piano with dirty broken keys. Middle C was the most broken, but the chip on the key fit her finger perfectly. When she had to give her recital it was on a new beautiful piano with perfect ivory keys. She felt small, confused and lost without knowing where her broken middle C was. I don't know....I just think of that often. Probably because I find myself there often! :) I guess we can only do what we can do and yes, leave the rest.

Anonymous said...

I read this early yesterday morning and burst into tears. Then showered, made coffee and walked out the door- off to my commute, my job.
That last bit, about the golden rod- that cracked me open.
My work becomes clearer.

Janine said...

Yes, a bit of tears. Thank you for letting me let the tomatoes be and let their end be my beginning.

Unknown said...

your writing, thoughts are like the keys of that piano. First being played. Feeling it out. Expression. No wonder we fit - I am such to explore the depths only we ourselves allow ourselves to explore in our mind and soul.

Susan said...

Have you found a piano teacher yet? I would suggest my niece Helen Kashap in NYC - she might be able to teach you or suggest someone. Check her out at
I'm a flower farmer in Minnesota and always find your writing and projects thought provoking. Thank you.