8. I wake to the familiar plinking of my father on the black grand piano. The sound breezes through the floor from the room below. There’s a bright dullness to it like birdsong in the shadows of an old growth forest. One note chipped away fifteen, twenty, twenty-five times. The minute changes in pitch go undifferentiated past my ears. Then, the next note one semi-tone up, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five times over & over again. Accretions on a body or on consciousness. I haven’t heard him tune in many years. I haven’t been home to hear it.

The tuning is deliberate — careful but not cautious — like running your palm down a pillar of red cedar. Roots uncurling in the honeycomb at the base, visible now from wind and the stream that flows out of the waterfall down the mountain. The names I give it resist ownership. After an hour of tuning 200 or so strings, my father, to test his work plays Franz Liszt. He has a simple & yet firm touch to the keys.

The Ave Maria was a song my mother used to sing. But Liszt’s variation removed Schubert’s lyrics: Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. My mom told me once she thought her own mother could hear her when she sang. Now there are generations in Liszt’s unvoiced melody: my mother’s, my mother’s mother who I never met…

After 33 years of practice, my father’s lied is without flaw, the first seconds of fresh perfect pitch, hewn into reddish pith. After all is said & done, we are left with a lichen-melody draped over the chording. No one is supposed to hear this.

The last reverberations die away, and I get up. I never stretch but do now for some reason and go downstairs.


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