“For a Piano Abandoned in the Breadbasket” by Andrea Defoe

Andrea Defoe


Perhaps it was too heavy
for the horses to haul it all the way west
or something else just mattered more.
Maybe someone was jealous
of how the girl played it
as if sweet little veeries were flying out her fingertips:
Snow White of the new frontier.
Maybe she hated it, but probably
it was her favorite thing and alone
nights nothing to smother the hollering
silence she rocked herself and thought
of her piano gathering snow, envisioned
the prairie rodents caching their food
between its wires, elk nosing the keys
in a song so random they could only
think of it like thunder. Maybe some Indian
had found it and grasped its beauty, hauled
it home to pay his dowry. But in the best
of these dreams she was sleeping and the piano’s
legs came to life—this didn’t frighten her,
she’d always known her piano was alive—
and worked its sunken heels out of the soil,
began to march then trot in the path
of the last wheels to pass this way
till one wind-rattled night she’d hear
a peculiar tap and find it there in the dark,
waiting for her to make it sing.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007


Andrea Defoe: “I must’ve been about fifteen, in the middle of a forest, when I happened upon a gravestone inscribed, ‘Outward sunshine, inward joy: Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!’ I was amazed at how the right lines in the right place could elicit a gut response from me.”

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