Piano Lessons – A Poignant Poem by American Poet Laureate Billy Collins

I enjoy a good poem once a while. So I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon one that’s on piano lessons and then some — and what more penned by a renown poet!

It’s been said that a picture paints a thousand words. Well, sometimes words paint beautiful landscapes too! Hope you take the time to read and soak in the poignancy of the words like I did… 🙂 And then enjoy the music clips (as mentioned in the poem) that I’ve included for your listening pleasure!

PIANO LESSONS by Billy Collins
My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back
off to the side of the piano.
I sit up straight on the stool.
He begins by telling me that every key
is like a different room
and I am a blind man who must learn
to walk through all twelve of them
without hitting the furniture.
I feel myself reach for the first doorknob.

He tells me that every scale has a shape
and I have to learn how to hold
each one in my hands.
At home I practice with my eyes closed.
C is an open book.
D is a vase with two handles.
G flat is a black boot.
E has the legs of a bird.

He says the scale is the mother of the chords.
I can see her pacing the bedroom floor
waiting for her children to come home.
They are out at nightclubs shading and lighting
all the songs while couples dance slowly
or stare at one another across tables.
This is the way it must be. After all,
just the right chord can bring you to tears
but no one listens to the scales,
no one listens to their mother.

I am doing my scales,
the familiar anthems of childhood.
My fingers climb the ladder of notes
and come back down without turning around.
Anyone walking under this open window
would picture a girl of about ten
sitting at the keyboard with perfect posture,
not me slumped over in my bathrobe, disheveled,
like a white Horace Silver.

[wpaudio url=https://www.mypianoriffs.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Song-for-My-Father-Horace-Silver.mp3 text=Song-For-My-Father/Horace-Silver dl=”0″]

I am learning to play
“It Might As Well Be Spring”
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him in to the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-bye,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.

[wpaudio url=https://www.mypianoriffs.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/01-Brad-Mehldau-It-Might-As-Well-Be-Spring.mp3 text=It-Might-As-Well-Be-Spring/Brad-Mehldau dl=”0″]

Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.
It is the largest, heaviest,
and most beautiful object in this house.
I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
And late at night I picture it downstairs,
this hallucination standing on three legs,
this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.

[Original music clips used here solely to complement the poem.]

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