So How Do You Know

that he didn’t become a congressman somewhere,
lobbying for the arts–
I mean the way his mother
made him promise to never play football
because he had to protect his hands,
and what with a 12-note hand span
and athlete’s shoulders
he could have been performing
with a major symphony all these years–
but I never heard anything more
after he went away to the conservatory;
I only recall the faces of our teachers
as they leaned against the back wall of the auditorium
during the Rachmaninoff
their eyes closed, satisfied
that they’d been right about him all along
and maybe even deserved credit for
recognizing his talent in the first place;
as for me,
I may have stretched out on the floor
beneath his Steinway
one cold Saturday morning
when we were eleven or maybe twelve
while the rest of the neighborhood boys
scrimmaged on the lawn,
blowing onto their fingers
to keep them warm
as he practiced,
his hands raised over my heart
like the illusionist he would become,
while I disappeared
into the volcano of deep, violent notes;
and his mother, never satisfied,
called from the kitchen
for him to do it over and over again
until the shadows lengthened
and the boys
from the lawn.

-From Inkwell
-all rights reserved