The only thing I can trace back is death. That,
and warped piano lids. The ivory keys are like teeth
before dentures. I ask Grandma when she’ll have it tuned.
She gives a closed-mouth chuckle.
It belonged to the grandfather I never knew.
He had perfect pitch because he didn’t see the music, Daddy says, he felt it.
I scrunch my eyebrows and guess that it’s one of those things
that will rebound and click like a metronome.
We go to Grandma’s backyard and my pointer finger picks out the moon,
like the ivory peeking from an ebony lid. He sees it, too. For a while we say
“Daddy, didn’t you want to be an astronomer once?”
“Yes, I did.”
And somehow I know he’s not just squinting for stars.
Grandma’s mother was a firm believer in tea leaves and tarot cards.
I imagine Grandma, mid-twenties with a cigarette in hand, blonde hair fingered and combed til static caught on, looking over the cards her husband was dealt. Squeezing the cross hanging around her neck.
I imagine the car, the sweaty press of rush hour, the hospital.
I found the cards in her basement one night, ripped right down the middle.
She called her move to Florida a change of scenery. New state, newborns, new life. She kept the radio off for much of the ride. They had had enough music.
Grandmother buys us a telescope. It blends in with the
leathery darkness. My cousin turns the dial and calls me over.
The shadow of my eyelashes fracture the view like a kaleidoscope
until I force my eye open. Until it hurts.
Grandmother is reclined in a chair, lifts her wine glass to the stars.
I see her breath before I hear it.
“Aim for the moon!”
But I know we’re really looking for God.
Shannon Daniels, Age 16, Grade 11, Stuyvesant High School, Gold Key