Featured Poem


Piano Lessons

James T. Stemmle

the piano teacher was angry and irritable

incontinent in pain and dying of cancer

eventually they sent her home to hospice

the hospice lady drew out of her

what a good day would look like

and set a goal of rigging things

for one good day

navigating stairs was a problem

so they set up a bed on the first floor

with a potty next to it

and balanced her pain meds to give

long periods of lucidity

so she could manage herself

regain independence

minimize embarrassment

a couple of days into this new normal

ambition returned and it started seeming

as if a good day entailed teaching

so they called her students to see

if they would like to resume lessons

from an old lady who was dying to teach

and so for four weeks or so

there were extraordinary lessons

on the edge of pain and lucidity

culminating in a recital

where every student who played

Brahms or Beethoven got a hug

with a whispered you are special

and a little gift from the teacher

at least one student the daughter

of the physician who told this story

subsequently went to music school

but they all saw a thing of beauty

a woman dying well

Originally published in Coneflower Cafe, 2022