By Jo Anzalone
(also written when I was a teen as an experiment in stream-of-consciousness composition)
I'm not pretty. It has been the one beautiful thing in my life. It's funny how stiff my
cheeks feel as my lips smile. My finger tingles as I run it along the smoothness of the
mahogany. I wonder how it will feel if I rub it over my lips? Soft but dry...doesn't
want to slide, pulling my lip after it. ...My piano. MY piano. Hmmmmm? Piano, piano...piano...pee...ANN...o. The word itself is musical. Ma...hog...an...ee...pee...ann...o.
I CAN'T believe I will never see it again! My heart can't. Maybe if I stare at it very
hard for a long time I can...I can what? I can nothing! It's got to stay. It CAN'T stay!!
But it's got to. Oh, Lord, DO something!! I can't leave it...I can't. I didn't realize I was
pressing my hands on it so hard. White knuckles. White bones. Skulls. Ohhh...I can't
leave it here in this barren place...this desolate piece of nothing.... If I turn my back maybe...maybe...that hill in front of our wagon will not be there. Could that happen...
if I turn...just so...is it gone? Is the ox not lying over there dead? Oh, GOD...the sun is
so HOT!! What would it do to my piano if I left it...if I left it...if? Of course I can't leave
it! I won't leave it! I just will not leave it in this dirt...in this sun. Why, my goodness, the mahogany would just...it would just...well, Mother would have a fit, yes, she would.
Wouldn't you, Mother? Mother? Are you here, Mother? No...you are not, are you.
Not anywhere near...or even far. Oh, Mother, I miss you so! How can I be here...here
in this awful, awful place...and you be gone? Won't you play the piano once more for
me...just once more so I can see your fingers move in beauty over the keys and I can be
five and wear my blue dress with the matching bow you tied in my hair and I can sit
close beside you on the bench and we can be together, you and I, and it will be Maryland
where everything is green and the May breezes will bring the scent of roses from your
garden? Or maybe, Mother, it will be Christmas once again and I can wear my long
white nightgown and touch your soft brown hair while you play Silent Night just for me
and the smell of fresh-baked gingerbread sneaks out from the kitchen? If I close my eyes
really tight can I see once more the cedar boughs and candles atop the piano and hear
the crackle of the flames from our big stone fireplace? Remember, Mother, the long
hours I spent practicing my music...how short, how very short they all seem now. How
familiar each discoloration of the ivory. Oh, God, HOW I love this piano! It is the only
part of all I loved that is left to me. We've brought it so far...so many miles...so many
rivers and hills and long, cold nights. Why WAS it my brother wanted to go to Oregon?
I can't remember. Oh, yes...you, Mother. You were gone...like Father was...and Sam said
we needed a new beginning. That was it...I think. I can't think. How can I think when my
piano is sitting in the sand and Sam is hitching up our one last ox and says over and
over that the hill is too steep and one ox is not enough and my piano is too heavy. It isn't
fair to have to leave it now...not after all this way...not now. It isn't fair...it ISN'T!!! It's
part of me sitting there looking so out of place in this land. That's it, you know...I am out
of place in this land. I don't want to be in this place. I want to be in Maryland...I want to
be HOME! I want my white curtains and my red rugs and even the fringe on the dining
room tablecloth. I want to be home...yes...home...with my piano...and with Mother. It's
just not possible...no...not possible that I have to leave it here. Why...I held onto this
curving leg when I was learning to walk! My fingers have touched these ivories for
thirty-five years. Mother loved this piano. I can't leave Mother in this land. Mother?
Mother? I can't swallow...my throat is all tight. Every muscle in my face feels so tight
and strained...I want to cry...but I can't. Ohhh...piano ...piano...piano! How can I leave
you here...how CAN I? How can I? Sam is calling for me to come back and help push
the wagon up the hill. But if I push the wagon up the hill...I will be up there...and you
will still be here. No...no, I can't do that. I can't. Oh, the hill, the hill...how I HATE
that hill! Oh, Sam is getting impatient. I've got to go. The sand is hot through the soles
of my shoes. My piano feels hot, too. How can I leave it in this sand...in this heat? I
know how I can do it. I can turn my back on it and walk up the hill toward the wagon...
but one more...one last feel of it beneath my fingers...one last familiar touch...oh, eyes,
quit blurring...not now...oh, beautiful, beautiful piano. MY piano. Ohh...I MUST go!
Good-bye...good-bye, piano. Piano. Dark and light...run toward the wagon... wagon... wagon...ivory...piano...hill...hill. One last look! Oh, piano! Dirt...rocks...rattlesnakes
and...a piano. I still don't believe it. My heart would die if I let it believe it. I have to
go!! Good-by...piano....MY piano.
BACK TO INDEX