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Piano Overture
Marilyn L. Taylor


He came to our apartment twice a year

to tune my mother's piano.  All day long

we tiptoed, trying not to interfere

with what to us were strange, unearthly songs.

He never struck a heavy, luscious chord—

only fifths, fourths, octaves—clean and spare;

brandishing his hammer like a sword,

we watched him wring concordance from the air.

Taut as pulled wire, he'd lean into the keys,

his practiced fingers pressing note on note,

hunting down aberrant harmonies

and any latent quaver in the throat.

At last the piano, gaping and undone,

its very heart exposed for all to see,

would wait in silence, chastened as a nun,

for the blasphemies of Chopin and Satie.


From Troika (Thorntree Press, 1991).
Used here with the author's permission.



Marilyn L. Taylor served as Poet Laureate of Wisconsin from 2009 - 2010. Her award-winning work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, and she is the author of six collections of poems. Marilyn taught for many years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and, in 2004, was appointed to a two-year term as Poet Laureate of Milwaukee. She was a columnist for The Writer magazine for five years, and currently serves on the board of directors for the Council for Wisconsin Writers and the Advisory Council for the MFA Program at Western State Colorado University, Gunnison, CO.  Marilyn now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she continues to facilitate workshops locally, statewide, and beyond. Learn more about her at   



Post New Comment:
Blasphemy is a terrific word. That is a lovely rendition of it
Posted 07/14/2014 05:57 AM
Mary Lou Taylor:
So beautifully written and experienced.
Posted 07/13/2014 08:48 PM
We had two pianos, and even better than watching him tune the upright, was seeing his devoted tenderness to the grand. And yes, I blasphemed as soon as he left!!
Posted 07/13/2014 06:07 PM
Very sensitive to this music beast itself. Tuners love the wood of their clients, pure and innocent. How many bad pianists are their who work blasphemous renditions.
Posted 07/13/2014 05:28 PM
Marilyn. I really like your subtle rhymes, the rhythm, the piano tuner as taut as the strings he's tuning. Great job.
Posted 07/13/2014 02:50 PM
Hi, I loved your poem. It was special in another way for I was born on a farm in Wisconsin many years ago and was the first poet laureate for the city of Davis in California from 2010 to 2012...all the best...Allegra
Posted 07/13/2014 11:58 AM
Great to revisit that experience! Thanks, Marilyn.
Posted 07/13/2014 11:53 AM
ed werstein:
great poem, Marilyn.
Posted 07/13/2014 11:30 AM
The blasphemies...I love it! Been there done that!
Posted 07/13/2014 11:10 AM
This poem--exquisitely tuned to perfection!
Posted 07/13/2014 09:59 AM
Donna Pflueger:
Marilyn, I love ...Taut as pulled wire, he'd lean into the keys...I can see him so vividly in the house where I grew up. Thank you for taking me on a journey this morning.
Posted 07/13/2014 09:49 AM
Have always loved that poem, Marilyn. The tuner is an amazing man--you've got it exactly.
Posted 07/13/2014 08:58 AM
A technical treat: Contemporary iambic pentameter, all the rhythms sounding in harmony.
Posted 07/13/2014 08:06 AM
i can hear him now...lovely poem, Marilyn!
Posted 07/13/2014 08:02 AM
Wilda Morris:
Another exquisite poem by Marilyn Taylor! I, too, have watched with admiration as a piano tuner did his wondrous work. Thank you for sharing this poem.
Posted 07/13/2014 07:52 AM
Thanks for another inspiring work. The last time I had my piano tuned it reminder me of a trip to the orthodontist - lining up all the ivories just so.
Posted 07/13/2014 05:58 AM
Ross Kightly:
Oh, those Chromatic Excesses, the heresies of late Romanticism! Somebody needs to practise a couple of Preludes and Fugues from the Divine J. S. Bach's 'Forty-Eight'! Or at least a Goldberg Variation or two... bless the piano!
Posted 07/13/2014 04:17 AM

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