Tuesday poem: Today is the Piano’s Birthday by Michael Harlow

Today is the piano’s birthday. Yesterday it was found weeping in the garden. Mother was not there, father was gone. But today is the piano’s birthday . . .

Under the balalaika tree the children touch it. The piano’s foot-pedals hum.

Hurrah! shout the children. The piano is on holiday! They sing the birthday song. They bound up and down. They strike the exact note without looking, without looking the piano writes a song for the children . . .

Plinking, planking, plonk – the piano conducts the children through a small wood of ivory. The children sing with their feet. They call to mother who is dreaming on the lawn, to father who is at the office polishing his machines . . .

The piano falls into a dream. The children listen. From far off, birds with the faces of women enter the garden. They lie down. They call to the children. The children listen. They lean into the darkness. They decide. They curl inside the piano’s birthday. The children are the size of a crotchet. The piano grows around them.

The piano is being dreamed. The children are the stories. They are listening . . .   to mother wake on the lawn and touch the space around her   . . . to father close the office door . . .
And today is the piano’s birthday.

If we listen – we can hear mother call them, we can hear father enter the house, carefully. If we listen – we can hear the very first song the children sing, the very first dream the piano dreams . . . we can hear . . . mother and father touch each other with wonder . . .

by Michael Harlow
From Today is the Piano’s Birthday   (Auckland/Oxford UP, 1981)
Used with the permission of Auckland University Press
This poem is part of the Tuesday Poem Scheme


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