This is a poem written when I visited my sister in the first stages of memory loss. it is a bittersweet memory that I shared with only a few of you five years ago when I first started my blog but which very few people read, judging from the number of views and “likes.” This memory, as most are, is bittersweet.
When My Sister Plays the Piano
The first notes, beautiful and true, float like a memory up the stairs.
In the week I’ve been here in her house with her, she has not played the piano
and so I thought her music was gone like her memory of what day it is
or whether I am her sister, her daughter or an unknown visitor.
Yet on this morning after her 76th birthday celebration,
music slips like magic from the keys: song after song
from “Fur Elise” to a sweet ballad I don’t know the name of—
sure and correct at first,
then with a heartfelt emotion we had both forgotten.
song after song
in an unfaltering language—
some synchronicity of mind and hand
her brain has opened the door to.
While I listen, time stands still for me
as it has for her so often in the past few years
as yesterday and today shuffle together to
crowd out all consideration of future fears.
For ten minutes or more, she segues
from melody to melody
with no wrong note.
Then “Deep Velvet,”
a song she has played from memory
so many times,
dies after twenty-four notes.
Like a gift held out and snatched away,
I yearn for it, pray she’ll remember.
After an uncharted caesura, her music streams out again,
sweet and sure, for a staff or two—
the sheet music giving her a guide her brain so often can’t.
But after a longer pause, I know it is lost
like the thread of so many conversations.
A hiccup of memory, folding itself away.
“Come And Worship” chimes out
like the tolling of a bell.
The wisp of the old hymn, two phrases only—
before it, too, fades.
That sudden muffled sound.
Is it a songbook displaced from its stand as she searches for another;
or the lid of the piano, quietly closing on yet another partial memory?
The Ragtag prompt today was memories.