Saturday, April 25, 2020

Piano Lesson by Adam Zagajewski

Piano Lesson

                      I’m eight years old

Piano lesson at the neighbors’, Mr. and Mrs. J.
I’m in their apartment for the first time,
which smells different from ours (ours has no smell,
or so I think). Everywhere carpets,
thick Persian carpets. I know that they’re Armenians,
but don’t know what that means. Armenians have carpets,

dust wanders through the air, imported
from Lvov, medieval dust.
We don’t have carpets or Middle Ages.
We don’t know who we are—maybe wanderers.
Sometimes I think we don’t exist. Only others are.
The acoustics are great in our neighbors’ apartment.

It’s quiet in this apartment. A piano stands in the room
like a lazy, tamed predator—and in it,
at its very heart, dwells music’s black ball.
Mrs. J told me right after the first
or second lesson that I should take up languages
since I showed no talent for music.

I show no talent for music.
I should take up languages instead.
Music will always be elsewhere,
inaccessible, in someone else’s apartment.
The black ball will be hidden elsewhere,
but there may be other meetings, revelations.

I went home, hanging my head,
a little saddened, a little glad—home,
where there was no smell of Persia, only amateur paintings,
watercolors, and I thought with bitterness and pleasure
that I had only language, only words, images,
only the world.

(Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

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