Wise Poets – Kim Dower – Visiting Eleanor

Kim Dower

Barbara, my childhood piano teacher
played Chopin like he was whispering
into her hands, all us kids from the building
had our Saturday morning lessons, apartment 6C,
our giddy fingers trotting in the key of G,
lifting high for Mozart, metronome ticking
as her coffee brewed, her sandy-haired husband
at the wooden breakfast table, mug, cigarette
tight in his hands, he was the man on the Winston
ads, I’d slide by him, eyes down on my way
to the bedroom where the shining black upright
Steinway sat facing Broadway, her daughter pirouetting
across the checkered linoleum floor, tiny yellow socks
collecting dust with each step, twirling to the music
we were all struggling so hard to learn how to play.
And here we are a lifetime later, arm in arm, walking
in the rain, joyous as a sonata on our way to 72nd street,
“visiting Eleanor,” she calls it “the only statue of a woman
in the entire city,” tightening her grip, her bicep strong
as a ballerina’s calf muscle, and it all comes back,
she and my mother close talking in our kitchen, Barbara’s pink
mohair sweater, hair in rollers, the two of them always
wanting to put things behind them, the music of their motherhood,
beat of secrets, music of being someone’s daughter. I still have
my music book filled with her notes: “moderate tempo, allegro,
practice! Here’s where you get into trouble.”