Gail Mazur
| poetry


Why was Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1 my favorite piece
to play when I was ten and always dreading

practicing the piano? Was it the melody—his
melancholy lines, like verse, had such clarity,

their notes syllables I didn’t need to try
to understand. Yet tonight, when the auditorium’s

bustling and whispering, now when it’s my turn
to play the Conservatory’s Steinway, its keys

seem alien undifferentiated rows, un-dotted
looming dominoes, so I ask you please to place

my fingers on Satie’s first notes when I sit down.
Maybe then—I hope—Satie will rescue me. If not,

here’s my cockamamie plan: to look “professional”
as the house lights dim, wait out the expectant

welcoming applause, then take a deep breath—
and then, pretend to faint! I think you agree

this passes for a course of action. In my ur-dream,
the ultimate shirk’s refined, I practice it

as diligently, as desperately as work itself.
I’m at the keyboard now, my gooseneck hands,

their long fingers my old teacher praised—Octave
plus one!—are hovering, the hall’s gone silent

but you’ve disappeared! Where are you? I tell myself
Satie said to play gravely. I watch these hands

faking over the unintelligible keys. I look for you,
it’s dawn, my feet aren’t pedaling, you’re not here,

or anywhere—there’s only our room, its cool air
noiseless, hushed as an audience holding its breath.

Gail Mazur‘s seventh poetry collection, Forbidden City, will appear in 2016 from the University of Chicago Press. Earlier books have been finalists for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and winner of the Massachusetts Book Prize. Founder of the Blacksmith House Poetry Series, she is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.

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