Monday, 7 December 2020

Creative keys

A planned, and unusual, exhibition provided the inspiration for today's writing. Artsenta has an old piano that will be dismantled and transformed into many individual artworks to be displayed at the 2021 Dunedin Fringe Festival (18-28 March). The challenge was to write a short story or narrative poem involving the destruction of a piano but with something unexpected, beautiful or inspiring coming about as a result.


Her performance was over,
the audience's applause faded,
The stage in darkness.
But the show is remembered,
music absorbed into the wood,
pianist's love soaked into the ivory,
resonance of the crowd's enjoyment hums in the strings.
A cacophony beyond human hearing,
beyond human knowledge,
feigning silence.

The cacophony rises,
until strings break.
One by one.
Twang by twang.

The rollers beneath her three legs spasm
and spin,
dancing across the stage.

Once pregnant with musical possibilities,
now dying, spent
with keys tumbling to the boards.
Her polished black shell rent open,

The violence of new life replacing old.
A vengeful phoenix of sound.



“It needs to be tuned anyway.” she said, chords and quavers dancing in her memory as she saw again the gnarly hands of her grandfather tinkle the ivory and slide down the ebonies.  He had been gone a long time now, and his piano was full of dust and spiders from its storage in the back shed

“We’ll put it in the lounge” he promised “vacuum it out and dust it off and I will get a piano tuner in.  It will sound as good as before.”

Moving day arrived.  They were filled with anticipation and excitement at the prospects for their first home, as they watched the ‘stuff’ of their lives going on the truck, then later being moved in.

A quick picnic lunch on the back lawn and back to work unpacking.  Timed moved by and the kitchen clock was hung with care on the wall.

Next off the truck was the piano.  With care, six bulky men lifted it down and started up the path.  As they navigated the steps a black and whit cat darted, scared, from under the bushes, tripping the team leader.  He fell sideways and the others toppled, like dominoes, the piano crashing down between them, splintering on the steps, twisting and irretrievably broken.

They all stared in dismay.  He stepped forward;  “Put all the pieces up by the back fence” he said to the men quietly, his arm sliding around her waist, a comforting handkerchief proffered.

They went inside and sat, as at a wake, while the broken pieces of that dream were placed up against the fence.  He took the box which had held the kitchen clock and gathered up the ebonies and ivories, the hammers and the pedals and stored them on a dwang in the woodshed. 

When spring came she planted beans and peas against the fence.  The broken pieces of the piano were no longer there.  She wondered what he had done with them but didn’t want to know.

“Your beans are up” he reported, one day in November. 

Later she wandered up the garden for a look.  Beside the bean fence stood the heavy cast-iron frame of Grandfather’s old piano, upright, mounted on a slab of timber which was supported by concrete blocks.  The ‘top’, the back end of the strings, was braced against the fence with more timber and strong bolts.

The strings were taut.  Indulging memory she allowed her fingers to slide backwards across the strings, now like a harp.  Tuned and ready to play!  

Amazed she studied the hanging pieces and watched in awe as the wind caught one of light wooden hammer and bounced it across the strings, speaking chords and quavers! 

- Kate Jenkins

Today we feature one of our regular writers who has diligently written up the poems she has developed at the Artsenta Writer's Group ove...