Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and LiteratureSummer 2016
By Ana Garza G'z
When he was younger he “gave music
lessons to a blind kid who could hear a piece and play it
exactly.” He tells me because I’m blind. I almost say
I had lessons too, an upright piano
and sheet music on my lap, hours of fingers scrabbling
over crisp paper, over keys, left hand, right hand, two
hands together, no ear
to save my life. He asks me how I spend my day.
I teach English at the local university.
We’re there together because the growth hangs from a stem
behind my knee, slapping my calf as I walk.
Now it’s time for me to get up on the table,
“a series of metal boxes with plastic cushions, covered
in paper.” The description is exact.
So are his details about placement and height.
He hovers beside me, in front of me, behind me,
my more perfect shadow shifting, as I move forward, trail
the metal edge with the back of my hand, gauge
the climb with the toe of my sandal.
The kid has slipped away from him, the one whose hands knew
where to go, what to do, when.
I almost ask what instrument, but he’s telling me
to lie on my side, to bend my arm and leg
beneath me so as not to fall, to relax while he eases
around the table, taking up my ankle
in one hand, lifting it to position
the fingers of the other hand on the alien knot of skin.
I wonder again, what instrument.
He’s standing squarely in one spot, left hand rising
to straighten the leg, to watch the muscles at calf
and thigh, lowering to bend, rising
steadily, pausing, holding; right hand flexing
two fingers into the mass, into the stem. (Maybe a violin
or a guitar—something with a neck and strings—or a tuba
with a slide, one of the instruments that separates
note from note by fusing touch and distance.)
He’s pressing one fingertip, a second, a third,
into the crease above the growth, each pressure quick
and light. (Piano maybe,, its sounds autonomous
and empty as an open hand till polyphony
or grace note.) The pressing of his fingers mimes
an ornament that Schumann gave me,
a pirouette of tones, Like the twirling of a skirt,
like the scattering of rain, like my own fingers
Fluttering over piano keys, sheet music; buttons,
zippers, laces; cooking pots and paring
knives; scrapes and wraps and sewing thread. He understands
lightness of touch is how the hands see best,
truth that resonates from where his fingers move
to where my fingers rest. I forgive him then.
Ana Garza G'z has an M. F. A. from California State University, Fresno, where she teaches part time. Fifty-nine of her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, most recently in a Silver Birch Press poetry series on sweets. She also works as a community interpreter and translator.