When My Sister Plays the Piano

When My Sister Plays the Piano

By Judy Dykstra-Brown



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 herself.


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.


“Midnight Concerto,”

“Sunrise, Sunset”–

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?



For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

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