Nathan Curnow is an award-winning poet, spoken word performer and past editor of literary journal, Going Down Swinging. His books include The Ghost Poetry Project, RADAR, The Right Wrong Notes and The Apocalypse Awards. He has recently taught creative writing at Federation University, and toured Europe in 2018 with loop artist, Geoffrey Williams, performing in Poland and opening the Heidelberg Literature Festival in Germany. He lives in Ballarat and is the current judge of the annual Woorilla Poetry Prize.
The Piano Lesson
The last piano lesson I ever had
ended in a drug raid on my teacher’s house.
Mum was waiting in the car as she did each week.
She saw the cops pull up with their dogs.
When I ask her about it twenty years later
she’s forgotten everything—the raid, the lessons,
begging me to practice, that we even had a piano of our own.
I want to ask her how, and keep asking, how
it’s possible to forget all this, considering her devotion
to the black and white, the tunes of discipline and obedience.
I let it go because she blames herself for all she can
and can’t recollect. There’s a chord
that she’s an expert of playing—the guilt hammers,
the sustain of regret. So what now of this memory
if I can’t afford to share it? I want it to resonate.
But it stresses her frailties—a grand excuse
to keep pounding away at herself. It’s a grey-scale art
every child must learn to master in these final years—
to force the duet or to recognise it’s time
to learn both parts of Chopsticks for yourself.
Now my daughter plays and I wait beside her
turning the page when she nods, the metronome
tocking, her little hands, in reflection
all the right wrong notes.