Mother’s Pianos

Ilya Kaminsky
Facebook icon Share via Facebook Twitter icon Share via Twitter

Whispering at night, I think I hear
my mother’s voice: did I turn off the stove? No not this

but did you plant the tulips over my grave?
No, not this, not this—my Sonya

but you are pregnant, daughter? Sonya!
my mother laughed, clever as a child.

I say “my mother” and again “my moth—”
but she is weeping in the orchestra

as they play Chopin: as the music bends
to her left, to her right. Sonya

where did my deafness come from? From underneath
the shoulder-blades, inside the elbows.

“On the day of my death I will be playing piano,” she smiled.
Mother did not play piano—

there was no piano, no piano, no piano—but I thought I saw
hundreds of old pianos forming

a bridge over the waters from Batnaystan to Alehia—and she sat at
each piano—she did not play, she simply sat. The wind in

her hair. Drops of water in her hair. Her hair in her mouth.

More Reads


It’s like Blueberry saying she’s a lake and all people can do is dump in her busted refrigerators. No, it’s like you spend half your life kicking the supports out from ...



Warning: this life contains substances known to the state of California to cause cancer, nausea, dry mouth, pregnancy, lumbago, swamp fever, the blues, the ...


Carrying a Balance

The tightrope artist walks a fine line between two yawning options— to fall to his death to his left, or from the same height on the right. His middle way is no ...