Tatiana Nikolayeva in America, 1993

         She rose from a provincial dearth
         of composers to flower
         in Leipzig on the hour
         of any of the twenty-four
         movements the judges could request.
         Then came a career bequest
         from the man who stood,
         a ghost, behind the music
         for forty years to come.
         She bent the book back before
         she played the first time.
         The book disappeared.
         She cleared her mind.
         She saw colleagues shot,
         no one came back.
         To one same soundtrack
         years passed, musical staffs noted
         with ink stains.
         She played in memory of
         the memories she forgot.

         She blurs herself down
         the steps in black and white,
         but precisely. Too many movements
         for just one night.
         She drives the piano pedals
         and crosses her hands left under right,
         arrives by car.
         Old Glory in stillness
         for a Soviet star,
         Now America, she takes the stage.
         A woman her age
         plays piano in a silk tent
         like evening wear
         and sandals.
         Who is the man in row ten?
         She does not notice.
         He turns the score
         to the beginning.
         For bows, she nods. Nothing more.

         And then, she plays. She plays
         her part, the only one.
         The blackness
         before her, lifetimes flashing.
         She sees her own fingers thrashing,
         she hears their sound.
         The ghost behind her
         sits down
         on the ground.
         Her god has fallen asleep.
         In his American dreams
         it is 1949 again,
         World Peace New York
         a nightmare time again,
         ticking at the back of his head.
         He sees the future, his past is dead.
         He’ll meet her soon,
         play the first major
         chord, then the years hear her play it
         as it’s scored.

         What have I seen?
         asks the woman of the ghost.
         I have seen the final notes,
         she herself answers.
         He rises above her,
         sends her west. She feels
         the deepest loneliness,
         the rocking back and forth
         a kind of homesickness.
         “The ghost consoles her,”
         Pravda reports. “Leningrad. New York.
         A California story.”
         The ghost
         offers allegory.
         The pianist with an aneurysm,
         goddess with one-note wings.
         She crashes into herself and
         dies in the fall.
         No post-concert conversation.
         No curtain call.

         <      >