My first remembered toy was a small, red upright piano. I must have been a toddler when I had it, back when we lived on 6th Street, near the tracks and across the street from The Salvation Army.I remember loving that toy and wanting something more than it had to offer.

Years later, I made my own kind of music on my great aunt Lou’s piano, which she inherited from my great grandfather on my mother’s mother’s side. I remember “playing” on the piano for as long as I could while my mother visited with our aunt in another room. My mother would get annoyed with the obvious banging and would call off the concert when her nerves were near-shot.

There is music in me. On my 17th birthday I got an electric guitar. For a few years I played guitar in a dedicated practice and felt passion for it, but I let it go. For 20 years I did not play until I had an injury in 2009 that laid me up. During my “convalescence” I picked the guitar up again but I have since put it back down. My many dreams of playing piano urge me that the music in me needs to come out.

I have dreamed so many dreams in which I am playing piano. The poem below gives you a sense of my great longing and how the dreams unfold. Just a couple of weeks ago I visited friend for the first time and when I entered his home I saw the most amazing old upright piano. There were envelopes and magazines set on the keys, as though they were just tossed there for convenience. I thought: “How dare they! Don’t they know this object is sacred?”

Seeing the piano made me gasp. My eye was hooked to it when my friend was talking to me. My attention was on this rare to me thing and I would have begged to just touch it. My friend was cool and said he thought it would be okay if I played a little. (It was not his piano, actually.)

Just touching the instrument revived me, aroused me and gave me so much pleasure. The sense of my hands on the keys, the weighted feel when striking them, and that beloved dreamed-of sound fed a want in me. Again, I want to let my hands feel the keys, to put my body, mind and heart into the act of making music.

So tonight I put it “out there” on Facebook: “I need a piano.”

It is a need and surprisingly my friend Sheri offered to loan me an electronic keyboard. This delights me so much! I am eager to immerse myself in music-making—I have no real skill as of yet but I have music in me and very soon it will come out.

This poem appears in Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) and will be featured on February 14th on From the Poet’s Bookshelf, Darrell Bourque’s program locally on 88.7 FM KRVS (www.krvs.org)


I am learning the instrument, pouring myself into the instrument onto the keys, through to the tight wires, creating sound.

I innately know the instrument and can perform masterpieces of original composition. I can translate what I long for into sounds executed on the instrument.

There is a room which houses the instrument. The roof of our house is a sieve and the voices of strangers rain over us.

Exposed, the instrument’s lacquered finish buckles and peels—but I play furiously with precision, in dreams, only in dreams.

My whole body is attuned. I shudder with rhythm. I am a virtuoso, abusing the keyboard with bruising passion—

I am the dreamer, always the dreamer, mourning a dismal sleep.


  1. I am from a family of musicians. My mother has her masters in piano. My brother is a professional musician with keyboard as his main instrument. But the piano has always been difficult for me. We say the talent is in the left hand because my brother and mother are both left-handed. I tried piano lessons for years. I made my husband buy a piano for our household when we were first married and relatively rich with no children. Despite piano lessons, none of my children really stuck with the instrument, so it sits in my living room looking beautiful and silent. We decided to donate it to our children’s elementary school where it will be played daily and hopefully encourage young musicians. But still it makes me sad. And saddens me more to read of your unfulfilled dream of playing. I hope you will pursue your dream. It is never too late. Go for it!

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