( Written before attending Regis College)
Every key on the keyboard had its own shade of pale
so that whenever she heard an “A” it had the sound of a faded yellow
while the “G” was whiter with tiny lines so imperceptible
you had to look closely to find them.
“Middle C” was grey-white with a neutral sound
and she recalled telling one of her professors many years later
that its sound evoked a sense of stability
while she identified it unmistakably with her perfect pitch.
Or was it the sense of stability which came first
resulting in the sound of a distant ship’s horn inside her head
the pitch of which happened to be “middle C”?
She did not know that the keys’ discolorations were caused by age.
To her the piano was neither old nor new, neither big nor small,
its touch neither resistant nor too giving.
She would hear yellows and whites and beiges,
giving them their names “A”, “G” or “F” as mere consequences
and as naturally as the naming of a person to whom a voice belonged.
No need to look at the keyboard.
All she had to do was listen.
There was nothing about this piano she did not like.
It even had a name of its own, a name she could not read
but was told it belonged to a famous composer, a name with a French pronunciation.
In gold long-hand lettering centred above the keyboard was engraved the name Chopin.
She did not yet know that this composer was not French
and so did not wonder what the non-French pronunciation of his name could be.
The only thing she knew about Chopin was that her sister sometimes played a song he wrote,
a big song called Polonaise, another French word.
She did not think about the fact that her sister played the music of Chopin
on a piano which had his name engraved on it.
She was too young to find anything serendipitous about this connection.
To a young child serendipity is a given.
Everything about the piano,
its dark wooden presence reaching far above her view whenever she watched her fingers play,
the pedals she would some day reach fixed a foot beneath her dangling feet,
the black keys with the feel of wood grain under her fingers
Its ringing sound and all that it gave in return to her touch,
sometimes harsh, sometimes gentle,
and the sound springing forth sometimes loud and sometimes soft,