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Piano 4pm

Jackie Kay

The music lifts - up and up and up -my

son’s scales,

trails his long brown fingers.


It is so particular. Doh ray me.

He sits like time held still

on the red piano stool.


Fah soh la. The scales linger on his shoulders,

circle his childhood, Te Doh,

and saunter down the hall,


to float above me

in the kitchen cooking his dinner.

The music mingles with the smells.


Biding time; holding the moment well.

In the interval, the strange space

between notes,


I chop onions. I stir and wait.

Taste and pause. I grind some pepper.

Sprinkle some sea salt. He plays Friday.


And in they come, the children

from another time; lifting their skirts, running

by the dark river.


And the bells of the past, they ring and ring;

an old woman remembers how she used to dance,

waltzing, waltzing into the night air.


And the night waves rise and crash and falter.

And the rocks are always bare and glistening.

My son plays Arioso in F


away into the future.

I can hear him grow up,

up and off, off and up.


I can see us

in the space between the bars:

mother and son.


Here we come and go.

My boy will become a man.

The light will seek the dark.


The music, majestic,

sweeps and turns,

rising and falling, innocent and knowing.


Pushing out its long limbs.

The dance of the bones.

It yearns and swings,


through the heart of our home.

I hold my wooden spoon mid air,

like a proud conductor.


Tears fall down my face like notes.

From Dream Catcher no. 7, summer 2000