Hymn for the Piano | Teen Ink

Hymn for the Piano

November 13, 2022
By Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
163 articles 47 photos 1025 comments

Favorite Quote:
The universe must be a teenage girl. So much darkness, so many stars.

Miss Fern, half-deaf and ninety-one,

listened to my thirteen-year-old self

play the Blue Danube Waltz in her living room—again and again,

told me to go home, work on expression

I hit that pedal too hard

watched her bony, practiced knuckles,

twisted at odd angles, flying across the keys,

flourishes rising from “How Great Thou Art,”

the chewed hymnals and antique beginner’s piano books

scattered in her spare, lonesome living room by the window—

cornfields, wind, barns, highways,

sweeping, weeping, time, seasons in,

seasons out, scales under my fingers,

thoughts far away.


A faceless porcelain woman

on the mantle, pictures of her hero husband

who was a prisoner in World War Two,

hot Ovaltine that burned my tongue,

soft sugar cookies crumbling slow with conversation

and we always reassured her we’d see her again

(again, again).


Hours pass—knitting needles,

cross-stitch images half-formed,

songs we play over and over

but never really love

wooden birds and coneflowers

a weary teacher, a thin, agile prisoner

of my music-bearing Wednesday presence

a secretive girl with empty pockets

still, I play my frozen songs for her,

mirrored in late afternoon sun,

laughing, careless,

her own feeble, aging laugh

a hoarse sound in her throat

the silence of cats and photographs

an opaque dream—

she says it makes the days go faster.


I detached myself from Miss Fern

like oak leaves from a drying acorn—

polite, precise,

and the last song I played for her was “Nadia’s Theme”

for the hundredth time—she called it beautiful,

told me to keep practicing, but I never cared

and I said see you next time, not goodbye—

but the time I saw her last, today,

was quiet and staid, as she had always been,

dark forest pools and children she’d oil-painted

her face like a closed piano lid.

Weary music, play and play,

to wooden ladies, turning, sigh,

and say, and say,

they’ll come back soon,

again, again.

The author's comments:

This is a tribute to my piano teacher and best friend who died recently. RIP Miss Fern. Someday, I will play our songs again.

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