My Grandfather’s Piano
by Keiona Wallace
Grandfather played piano for me,
his hands like bruised peaches.
Withered fingers whispering to keys
as they’d stick to his frail skin.
He’d sit on unbalanced mahogany and dissolve
into dusted keys, each note a wave–
Crescendo of dysfunction crashing
into my hands– I dipped them into deep
blue and squeezed at strings
mallets tiptoed on tightrope stretched
in reddened palms. I’d listen to
thick wobbly notes bounce in an earthquake of echoes
from pastel walls and flimsy
He sang about man’s desire, how one day, it will
wrap me in shredded sheet
music and leach onto
graveled skin until sad melodies sink
inside constricted lungs, he said
that I will be softened, withered,
and drained from love.
His tired fingers rest on hungry keys ready
to pry open aching bones
slumped over, shriveled, he only hums,
letting dark circles rummage
under sore eyes–
So I press down, feed these starved keys
and his sympathetic hands guide mine over
this lilac wave of sounds so sacred
and I smile because he is no longer drowning.
Aged Whiskey with Honey Colored Legs
Wasted woman lays
tipsy a trance.
My empty flask dangles in tattered coat pocket–
remnants of lazy bootleg liquor
squeeze, scratch, peel at my tongue.
Her bleached hair clamped between fingers covered
in last night’s bloody knuckles,
oily curls leave stains on pruned skin
as squashed cigarette butts burn rustic ashtrays.
Her bright beady eyes are gray smoke clouds,
her slim figure wrapped in midnight blue dress
skin tight– honey colored legs exposed.
unlike my wife who sits late by kindling fire braiding
autumn bows into my daughter’s charcoal colored hair.
pale fingers trace the petals of her rose like cheeks
as my wife murmurs to her that I’ll be home soon.
Soon enough to consume cold medium rare steak,
tuck her into thick princess comforter and
read blurry words scattered– dancing in book about
a prince who will always be there.
I hope he is there.
I penetrate her cracked layers,
squeeze inner thighs, rub skin raw,
kiss my way up to her bursting lips.
with my hand gripped around wrist
she lays there– shaking off parts of me,
barbaric smoke entangles with her lungs–
slight burns choke deep in throat from
aged whiskey and dirt flavored cigars.
I dream of dust clouds tasting of iron roads
and discarded nicotine patches,
littered with illegal A1 firebombs and full
glasses by empty
bar stools, waiting for me.
January 11th, Suffocating
1. Cherry Blossoms
On Sundays we walked
staring up at looming
cherry blossoms dangling towards the earth
caress smooth petals slow,
withering between my clammy fingers,
I hold them out to her.
She smiled at my offer
and tried to explain to me what life tastes like,
I said with baby cheeks, it’s warm vanilla,
cool lemonade during sticky summers
condensation trickling down the side of glass.
“Only on your brightest days.”
It might taste like caked mud clogging, being
plastered in my throat,
or the thousand butterflies I swallowed in a single gulp,
and on those days,
she says it might hurt to breathe.
I lay on her chest, listening to her steady heartbeat, smothering
myself in the rich smell of her
coconut skin– Japanese cherry blossom perfume.
She squeezed my hand, spreading
wrapping me in a love so large she
Her ashes smell like a hospital room
filled with empty beds and smeared lifelines.
like automatic doors, syringes spill over with insulin
pulsing– 50 units.
The breaths she inhales don’t belong to her.
they are loans from bellowing monitors,
deconstruct bones that deteriorate,
pinch at flaking insides– unconscious.
I wondered if it all hurt.
the blood rippling, erupting, filling her skull
Thick staples holding together plates of skin
My mother’s fingers so numb to pain
the diabetic test strips don’t hurt anymore.
Does she feel the insulin shot I was taught
how to penetrate through leathery stomach?
Does she remember the plastic tube nestled
down in her throat?
The sun shines,
breaks through cherry blossom petals
and I reach for them,
and crisp bark, holding
frail petals between my fingers
I hear her laughter, imagine eyes a deep brown–
they resemble mine, but hers told deeper stories
I memorized her face, watched lips move, but
I could not remember the sound
of my mother’s voice.
Keiona Wallace is a senior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts studying in creative writing. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, working as the Print Editor for her school newspaper, The Artisan. Keiona wants to pursue writing in the future and hopefully work in journalism and print. She enjoys using poetry as an outlet for her overactive mind, questioning everything that comes in view. Poetry allows her to get in touch with all her emotions and deeply explore her feelings. She’s very charismatic and loves helping in any way she can, making any kind of detail impactful.