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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2016 - Vol. 13, Issue 3


written by

Ana Garza G'z


Written 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.

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