Fugue from the Burning Piano
by M.K. Foster

At some point during his concert, Yosuke Yamashita’s sonata
fails, flames licking the lid, warping the wood, the stringsmelting
everywhere, here’s a fact for you: a song played on a burning piano

can never be replicated, not even by its own voice, its body cracking
under all that heat and pressure, wailing a single concerto of black smoke into the sky, releasing sparks like starlings, all while he plays on

and down, his hands striking the keys until they are numb and blind with ash— listen, I kept your tongue in my mouth long enough to learn it was a hammer and held it there long enough to know that all music

starts in the skull, not an instrument’s chest, kept it there, a reminder
that the muscle bending mine was the same that spoke into my neck
nothing is complete without a few holes in it; which is to say a man’s mouth

is, if it is nothing else, a wound trying to close another and itself and failing, that’s all: bodies are always happening to us, and they’re all
that happens. Even when Yamashita walks away, the music goes on

without him—wood and metal breathing together and each other
and loud. And someone starts clapping: it’s not over, but someone
is trying to applaud what has passed or to join in as a mallet.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1.

M.K. FosterM.K. Foster’s poetry won the 2013 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize and has been recognized with an Academy of American Poets Prize. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park and currently pursues a Ph.D.

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