Dené Dryden


there are ghosts in my fingers.
they really want to play piano.
manual dialects I used to know —
how the tendons stretch, the
supple touch of cold keys, gentle
presses on a beginner’s lullaby.
the ghosts riveted in my bones
at the hollow bench at home,
fingering scales over and over
until I didn’t want it anymore.
a teacher whose name is a ghost
but her color was blue —
she scolded me between songs,
she cried, too. I know nursing
homes, the pink practice book,
five lines two staffs seven note
names eighty-eight keys Good
Boys Deserve Fudge, F-A-C-E.
phantoms irk knuckles to bend,
grasping the tube of a clarinet
but the ghosts want percussion,
they are greedy. they want more
than woodwind language: the
ASL alphabet, the floor inverted
as I stand on my palms, the grasp
of my mother’s hand always. but
there’s no place for them to go.

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