POETRY OF THE TIMES
At a performance of Ravel’s “Piano Concerto for the Left Hand,” commissioned by Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm during World War I.
The moment the maestro flicks his baton,
an orchestra thunders and the pianist suffers
a stroke. But everyone plays on while
we watch his left hand glissando the keyboard
with so much force his thumb sprays blood.
I close my eyes to turn off the sight
of his right hemiplegia, only to picture
lesions on MRIs and clots busted with tPA.
I crush my impulse to call 9-1-1 and lock in
to 88 keys stroked by five fingers, confused
by the illusion I hear the thunder of ten.
And when I let myself look again,
half a man nails the climax, then vaults
to his feet, cuff stained crimson, both palms
held to his heart, the audience in tears,
standing with “Bravos” for the soloist,
for the thrust of Ravel’s impossible score,
and for Wittgenstein’s first proof
that a man can gather all the world’s notes
in one hand and play them with the power of two.