Author: Linda Creel

thread of the piano, from bench to pew.

I played yesterday. It felt good, it had been a while. I was quite awful. My fingers didn’t float over the keys as they should. My hands heavy, not distinguishing the cracks between the raised and low. Black marks and dashes, ovals, letters all blurred and I could not focus to make them line up in time. So I played what I already know. What I memorized before lessons to put the teacher off. She knew when I was feigning. I didn’t cry yesterday. Now and then I do. Some notes draw tears. Tear something in me. Or remind me of an old seam. Could have been the florescent lights. They dry me up. They plop me back on a pew, and I won’t cry there.

It’s taking its toll, this living here. I have already been in each folded shadow buildings on hallowed ground birth. The musty, dark, roughly milled granite tunnels. The orange-red carpeted coat rooms. Crouching behind the copy machine, filling my nostrils with new paper smells and toner. Anything to cover that tangy smack of desperation exhaled by everyone there. Old and thick breath full of fear. I have seen the yellowed faces illuminated by the sun and then by the parked street lights through mottled colored glass. Wet cheek sun-catchers. Aisle track and field. Handkerchiefs swaying. Amens rising. I have seen them. I looked away, usually. To the front. Behind the banister behind the altar behind the preacher man. Always different. Always familiar. At times yellow with browned veins. Sometimes crisp white and black. Open, exposed. Or tight and lidded. But forever the landscape of my retreat. A constant. A welcomed relief to cover the wails, blanketing my ears with a film of softness. I screamed in my head ‘Louder! Please. Louder.’

Mother is easy to watch. Her face twists in concentration as she tests the keys, rhythm failing. Everything spelled out on her forehead, clearer than the transparency on the whining pull-down screen. She played at home, too. When she cried, we knew to leave her be. I think she’s better for giving it away. Though she gave it to me. I think it takes her back to her limey-green pew where she sat with her sister, her brother. Gone now. When I hold up the memory like a seashell phone, I can hear the sizzle of melting pew-cushion padding dripping fiery over brick as it tumble-burns down. I wonder if she felt freer when it collapsed. Part of me untangled a bit.

The hold those spring covered string’s take, the entangling I have begged for. I played yesterday.