“Fool Invents the Piano, 1250 A.D.” by William Trowbridge

William Trowbridge


Like the monkey that accidentally typed Hamlet,
Fool, tinkering in his workshop, constructed
an exact likeness of a Steinway concert grand,

which he called the “Making-Sounds-with-Little-
Hammers-on-Wires Machine.” It looked impressive,
but he was puzzled about what to do with it.

It was too big and complicated to be a doorstop
and too heavy and lopsided to be a wheelbarrow,
especially with those little brass wheels, so he

tried using it to scare rats out of the hayloft.
But the rats weren’t impressed, and he sprained
his back winching it up. Fool pushed on

the levers to make high sounds and low ones,
wondering why he’d made some levers black.
Neighbors, hearing eerie noises from his house,

suspected Fool of conjuring evil spirits
to cast spells on them. Several broke out
in goat-shaped rashes, others began speaking

gibberish. Soon, Fool found himself trussed atop
his machine, which was then dumped into a lake,
as Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 1 dawned on him.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020


William Trowbridge: “Fool, here and in my collection Ship of Fool, is based on the fool archetype, which runs from the beginnings of storytelling up to modern films (silent and sound), fiction, poetry, and stand-up comedy. He is combination schlemiel and shlimazel, alternately the spiller and the spilled-on. Often the scapegoat, he is, as St. Chrysostom put it, ‘he who gets slapped.’ My Fool, blundering into hell with Lucifer and company, is reincarnated in various historical times, with occasional unplanned visits back to the heavenly realm, operated as a mega-corporation by its Enron-style CEO. I thought I was through with my not-so-distant relative after the collection came out, but he’s back again, none the wiser.” (web)

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