after Liebesträume by Liszt
Acquires a piano he dreams you will play.
Heard Liebesträume behind his begonias
in May. Neighbor instructs am array
of itinerant, immature hands. Pause
not for their flaws amplified by an
open baby grand. Your melancholic
renditions are something he understands;
recluse melophile not hyperbolic
predicts your long neck, Victorian dress
with crimson stitch, a stature befitting
the old soul of a small witch who’ll rest
and perform soon under his control. Springs
to watch each week you escorted in
the house next door to where you should have been.
Piano amputated pedals, legs
exhumed in June from delivery truck
by sweaty moon-faces who all beg
him to rethink the basement when stuck
in a tight staircase, on the brink of placement
where your intended piano’s must hide.
Pay to break open walls, demolishment
then reconstruction with piano inside,
sound proofing panels, compact canopy
bed where his obsession could lay
a dizzy head caught in cadenzas he
recognizes from dreams. She’ll play
another soft zombie behind a locked door.
If not for our dreams, what is labor for?
July is crescendo, allegretto dolce.
Leaves basement door wide. Practices what he
will say “Pardon me, Miss, if I may
procure your advice about a piano received,
would it suffice” — expects your scorn, silence
but you meekly approach his bright house.
Red-rimmed eyes dripping tears in violent
bouts, broken in ways he couldn’t count
behind the begonias, the first night he dreamed.
There will be trauma, and you are too
demeaned already by life. Awakened, he sees
it as he tells you let’s do this some other day.
Tries not to listen, next door, again when you play.
Author’s Note: I’m taking piano for the first time since I was a teenager, and it really brings me back to a vulnerable place. I’m so excited about the whole experience. I wanted to write a gothic horror poem with the piano at the center, and that’s how this madman’s tale came to be. It also comes from my studying Liszt — who I don’t think was a madman at all but like all artists when viewed through a pyschopath’s lens, people find justification for their terrible actions.
So Liszt as I’m learning wrote the three parts of Liebesträume based on three types of love — exalted love, blessed death and unconditional love. I don’t think the narrator of this poem knows anything really about any of these sorts of love but as a music lover he’s moved by Liszt’s dreams of love (the translation of Liebestraume) to justify his own terrible ends.
One other influence on this poem is my reading that Elizabeth Smart’s captor decided to take her after hearing her play the harp while he was doing work at her parent’s house.