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American Life in Poetry: ‘Taking Apart My Childhood Piano’ by Rebecca Macijeski

Sat., Aug. 26, 2017, 12:14 p.m.

Just as I prefer to read good travel writing more than I like to travel, I look to poems to offer me experiences I’m quite likely never to have. Here’s a poem by Rebecca Macijeski, a native New Englander, about just such an experience, and a poignant one, too. I’ll never disassemble a piano, but I’ve experienced doing it, here.

Taking Apart My Childhood Piano

My mother and I sit on the back porch,

bare feet in summer grass

as we take the upright down to pieces,

breeze humming through its strings.

I extract each melodic tooth and sort them

in octaves for rinsing, tidy enclosure in boxes,

remembering in each how my young fingers

rioted over them searching for sound

and the way it grows like its own

unruly animal. The old piano

lies open to Sunday morning sun,

swallowing blossoms that drift over like stars

from the apple tree I climbed as a girl.

My mother and I sit here in a quiet

usually reserved for churches,

hands moving slowly over what we gather

– piles of soft hammers, odd coils of wire.

We take up wet rags and wash each wooden key

down its surface, wet music

pooling onto our skin.

Poem copyright 2016 by Rebecca Macijeski, “Taking Apart My Childhood Piano.” Poem reprinted by permission of the author. American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.