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GROWING AND DYING WITH MOZART

The muscles of my body pull harder and crunch
   with each thrust I give an afternoon's hour
at the piano when all I can really do is squirm
   and try to find resolution for a day's discomfort.

It's like that sonata Mozart wrote as he must
   have tried to escape the death of his son
and decided that only by slipping to a major key
   would he be able to finish what it was all about.

For a time he had pushed into minor variations
   while he waited a death that seemed to linger
even as he wondered what it was all about
   before the final resolution could close it all.

When I was about the age of that son, I played
   a number of those sonatas, not knowing yet
just what a minor key might be or what a major,
   probably thinking a major was headed to war.

It was a time when so many fathers of my friends
   were gone with leafs or bars on their shoulders;
and I would hide myself at the piano, glad that
   Mozart was never in a war like the one I knew.

And I tried to play in such a way that it might
   give comfort to old ladies whose sons
were already dead, sprawled in sandy deserts
   of north Africa, unaware of a boy's efforts.

I did not know his son was dead; I did not know
   just what it meant to have a son who was dead,
even though I was now 10 and had lived
   a decade wondering if I'd live another year.

(From After 80 Years)


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