My Turn Out of the Box
My Turn Out of the Box
— Scott Owens
I put my fingers to good use,
playing my piano
instead of striking the keys
of my laptop,
and the notes lifted me
off the bench
not quite to heaven
but a little farther than I had been
The first thing I did
when I woke up to the sound of birds,
before I played the piano,
was write down some words.
This is not what I dreamed,
I wrote, but how I felt as I dreamed.
I felt redeemed by my dream.
I always thought she hated me,
but since the dream all memories
of everything my mother ever did wrong
are rising above me
like steam off a hot sidewalk
after a summer rain.
Time passes, perspective ticks and tocks,
but sometimes a hand gets stuck
at a certain hour, on a certain page,
everything I write as confused as angels
hovering over my house,
their ears peeled to hear instructions written
in the notes of my piano
lost in a cacophony of birdsong.
The mother in my memory
is not the mother who smiles at me
and points to my picture when I visit her,
drawing a line from here to there,
as if to say I know who you are,
I know who you were and will be,
forever and ever, Amen.
Sometimes I play the piano
at my mother’s nursing home,
the shape notes in old hymnals
so hard to read that I make mistakes.
My mother still cringes
when I hit a false note.
She still smiles when I don’t.
Since the dream,
I want to revise everything.
What used to be a story about a piano
held together with rubber bands
is becoming a story about trust.
What used to be a story about a broken nose
is now a story about what it means to be kin.
What used to be a story about my father
is now the truth about
From a tune by Mendelssohn
to the sound of music made by birds,
the ghosts of the past
are competing with the ghosts of the present.
When my memories shift perspective,
the mother who hurt me
becomes the mother who protected me.
Even so, abandoned one too many times by joy,
I wait my turn.
Although he looks straight at me
in my mind’s eye,
I cannot see my father through my eye’s eye.
I only see my mother.
My mother, my muse:
loved or hated or hated and loved,
you always stood by me,
from piano practice to adultery.
I will give it all back to you
Abandoned by angels,
I cannot ask the angels how they fly.
I will ask my mother,
whose language is the language now
Mothers are always right.
Life does not have to be a tragedy.
It can be one short paragraph in a diary
written before you turn the light on one morning,
your hand holding a pen
like a torch.
–Refers from the phrase “out of the box” from Scott Owens’ poem 13 Ways of Angels