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Piano Lesson


ISSUE:  Autumn 1994
On the edge
of town in a brick house that stood
next to the white stucco church on the corner
lived the preacher and my piano teacher.
Standing out front I imagined the smell of the
inside; oak paneling, like cinnamon
and the piano that sat
like a librarian facing the front door.

The door opened to an empty house.
Waiting for her I played
the one piece I could play.
At the recital in the white stucco church.
Everyone cried when I played “Love is Blue.”
The keys clicked and hummed under my hands
and the music moved through my body and out my palms.

The sun set and still no one came.
I wandered through the house.
At their bedroom I stopped.
Looking at the king size bed,
the rumpled sheets,
I thought of her. She was full bottomed but
thin uptop. Her hair and hands fluttered.
The preacher was a thick man,
like a potato. Sometimes he appeared
during my lesson, his pockets ringing,
potato fists of loose change,
coins scattered, his children scrambled to the floor
scrapping for what he discarded.

I stared into the preacher’s open closet:
belts hanging on a nail, dirty socks trailing
into the room. Behind a row of ties I saw a box
the size of a dishwasher. I peeked inside.
It was filled with Playboys.
The preacher’s secret congregation called to me
to become a member. I stared
at the red tipped nipples of the round breasts,
at the wet lips of the tongue tips.
I felt my 13 years press against my flat chest.

I thought, “Get out of this closet, practice.”
I always meant to practice.
I liked playing for her, she’d
listen and sigh at a phrase well done.
She said, “With your large hands you can reach
more than an octave,” Her voice stretched
the way my hands might, “You have
such a good ear, you should be good.”
My fingers fumbled, “More practice,” she begged.
But instead I shared the preacher’s secret calling
and hid in our warm attic
drawing pictures of naked women
rubbing my thighs together.

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