after viewing The Pianist
You play Chopin’s Ballade no. 1
in an orphaned house of cement,
shirt and jacket worn
like my father’s work clothes.
Soiled fingers commencing
chords with timid strokes of keys.
Breath drawing hills and valleys
under moonlight’s gaze.
Face rigid with tempo’s apogee.
A steady cadence and thundering
clang closes the performance.
Hosenfeld, your sole spectator,
gives no applause, only a question: Juden?
Does his trim, grey uniform remind you
of German boots clacking on Warsaw
streets, Star of David armbands, death’s
long scythe slicing through a ghetto’s
flesh, thick from ingesting half-a-million,
your parents, siblings, sister-in-law
herded into cattle cars
whistling to Treblinka’s silence?
Someday I will learn to sing
to those who loathe my body,
make melodies in times of lament
and desire life above all else,
as you did, Szpilman,
survival your great composition.
Jonathan Rowe currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts where he is an undergraduate student and writing peer tutor at Emmanuel College. His work is forthcoming in Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine, Kweli Journal, and Black Fox Literary Magazine and can be found at newgenerationverse.com.
The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski (Poland). 2002.
The Ekphrastic Review
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