The Pianist Upstairs

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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.

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