The Pianist Upstairs

The world's at war and he breaks into Brahms
tonight--an intermezzo one might hum
to lull a child or coax to life numb
nerves after a round of deafening bombs.

The stairwell's dark and cold, and still I sit
and listen as the music circulates.
I don't know what to do; the day's debates
don't change a thing. We hit. They hit. We hit.

My country's ruin'd choir resounds with lies,
and still my song will only come from words.
Upstairs, a man devotes a tender hour
to teasing out sweet hidden harmonies
that populate the hallway with white birds.
How wasted here, their pure expressive power.

Presented by

Erica Funkhouser teaches writing at MIT. Her most recent collection of poems is Pursuit (2003).

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Photos of New York City, in Motion

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In