Man out of time

for Reginald Robinson

Every morning you get up early to play the piano until your arms ache and your stiff fingers
demand a break long past the point that the tight spine’s sun begins to rise and radiate from
your waist. And every morning it’s a surprise what you find in your piano’s place—once in a
blue moon a Steinway Grand, newly tuned, but otherwise, a scuffed upright with missing keys,
an electric whose plug doesn’t match the outlet, a player piano with coin-operator’s slot for
which you never have the right change, the right currency, or worse, the tiny toy model you
must stuff yourself beneath, hands too wide for its matchstick keys to keep. So you put your
left hand behind your back, maneuver the right so that each finger has at least six independent
edges and begin to hammer out your latest complex composition, swinging at straight pins
with a mallet made to sink metal rivets. Perched on the little bench, pterosaur on a songbird’s
swing, knees bunched around your bow-tie tickled chin, you play, because—what choice do
you have?—a piece that’s happy & sad at once, the instrument shaking beneath your blurred
hands, the wind from which threatens to peel the note-name stickers off the keys. An ice cream
truck rolls through the living room, each high-pitched melody reminding you that you need a
day job to pay for the dim light coming from the gas wall-sconces, the black and blue suits, the
spats. If only the miniature pictures where you drop in quarters would come up three at a time,
rain down coins between storms of melody.