Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PIANO TUNING, by MARIANNE BORUCH

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PIANO TUNING, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Of course, I left it, the tuning hammer
Subject(s): Musical Instruments; Pianos

Of course, I left it, the tuning hammer
on the piano, and walked straight to the kitchen.
Left the old guy out there poised, bent
over it. Such a private thing
between them, the wooden panel open, hammer
to it, twin shafts on a maple handle. Something
about it-I couldn't watch-major,
not minor, then what the hell, back
to minor again, that underwater rush
going sharp and flat.

But I could feel it
in my chest. All morning, the pure
ache of it. And I did nothing in the kitchen,
that listening nothing, where you just
look out a window and watch for anything-birds,
grass bent at an angle. Because the whole time
it was the slow weight of the tuning hammer,
the metal strings that don't know
what music is, sweet
dumb narrowest expanse
of the deepest ore, singing out
its genius anyway.

I thought to do
other things-some cleaning up
or fixing a cold supper
for later. But I kept picturing
how it was out there, the tuning hammer
at the ancient upright. The old guy,
a genius himself in how he bent into it.
Again and again that private thing between them,
hammer to the strings, twin shafts, wooden handle.
I heard the turn and counterturn. It wasn't
love. But I heard
a shape-god, to know
what I was hearing-up, then down, forgiveness,
no forgiveness at all. . . .

First Published in The Kenyon Review, Volume 22, Number 2 (Spring 2000).

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