20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers


My Brother the Pianist

Yes, Ach du Lieber Augustin he plays,
Amazing Grace and Liebestraum. One year
has passed since he began piano. Days

of practice brought him to this point. He lays
a towel across the keys each night to steer
away the dust. He won’t allow a haze

to gather. What he’s done is an amaze-
ment to me, makes me want to stand and cheer!
With each new song he shapes, as if from clays,

a rainbow arch, eliminates the grays
that might be lurking back behind the mirror.
He turns the cold Decembers into Mays.

And I have had the privilege to teach
my brother, watching him extend his reach.


The Telephone Rings

Her little voice across the phone last night:
“I saw your picture in the paper. Nice!”
(My writers’ group, one afternoon of white
snow, candy canes, hot chocolate, gave a slice

of literature with readings, workshops, sales
of our own books before the Christmas rush.)
And then my granddaughter asked, voice in trails
of hope, “Can I come over?” In a hush

of happiness how I agreed. “I’ll bring
my books and I could have my lesson.” Yes!
She plays piano. I, the richest king,
anticipated her arrival, press

of long brown hair against my chest. And soon
I saw her lime-green coat. She ran to me,
“Hi, Memah.” O, that sweetened perk. The moon
last night shone brighter than the stars. To be

with her is treasure. How this charmer brings
me joy with laughs and smiles tucked in so tight
that every polished moment like this clings
with stubborn happiness and makes dark light.

English: Siemens Gigaset 4010 Classic, cordles...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Christmas Trip

We leave Sun. for the airport where we’ll stay overnight at a nearby airport hotel for our Mon. morning 10:30 flight to North Carolina, where we’ll be visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and their grandson for eight days over Christmas. We are supposed to get several inches of snow tonight plus high winds, resulting in blizzard conditions. Of course our school-age grandchildren are hoping they’ll have a snow day tomorrow. So far it has rained, but as of late this afternoon/early evening the snow and wind are supposed to whip up into quite a storm. I’m just hoping we can “get out of Dodge” in spite of the dire weather predictions.

My brother tells me that the weather in NC is in the 50s, and that sounds downright springlike to me. We will celebrate Christmas with them on Monday evening, Christmas Eve, with food and gifts. We will spend the weekend at my brother’s cabin in VA, and on Dec. 26, I will be meeting someone you all know.

He and I will be going to music stores to look for sheet music for songs he especially likes, like “Crazy” (of Patsy Cline fame), “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Irene, Goodnight,” “When You’re Smilin’,” “This Land is Your Land,” and others. He likes Jimmy Durante, Woody Guthrie, the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, and similar artists. He’s so excited to do this, and it will be fun to explore music stores that have good selections.

He has recently been working on “Amazing Grace.” He wanted to learn it “for Mom,” and that motivation has shot him forward at a super pace. He’s working on the very last measures right now, and by day’s end he’ll have it all. Mom died 17 1/2 years ago, and one of the songs I played at her memorial service was “Amazing Grace.” He’s not particularly into songs that reflect a spiritual message, but he wanted to learn it because it was one of the requests she made of me for the music at her service.

His wife has been out of town for nearly a month, taking care of her 90 year-old father, and she’s due home Sat. There are ten children in the family, and they’re each taking a month to stay with him before he has to go into a care home. His wife passed away about a year and a half ago, and the kids are caring for him now.

Anyhow, my sister-in-law has no idea that Tom has been working on “Amazing Grace,” so it will be a complete surprise for her when she gets home.

I’m so looking forward to our trip. We celebrated our family Christmas here on Sunday, and now we get to have another one. How fun is that?

Christmas tree


Temporarily Suspended

I fell a little while ago. As I’ve written before, I give my brother piano lessons by Skype, and sometimes I carry my laptop out to the living room to the piano so he can see my hands as I demonstrate something on the keyboard.

I was carrying the computer from the living room back to the room where I usually use it, and missed the one step up, landing flat on the tile floor, hitting a table next to the front door. All my little Willow Tree angels fell over. The computer fell to the floor too, but it seems to be all right.

Me? I’m very sore, and I’m sure will be even more sore tomorrow. But I doubt that anything is broken, or I’d be in more pain than this. Everything hurts on the right side from my shoulder on down to ankle and everything in between.

At least I didn’t re-break my right leg. I would be so upset had that happened. For now I just have to deal with some pain. So I might be most comfortable in the recliner…and I can use that time to do some writing.

1 Comment

Monday Morning Writing Challenge

To tell the truth, I think my day might bore
you. What, you’d ask, do you get done, what chore
have you accomplished?
Yes, the dishes wait
sometimes, and dust balls gather. Yet, I state

that writing wakes me with a push or shove.
I jump from bed in wonder of the love
this new day’s words will show me. Rituals
of morning now complete, I hear the lulls

and rhythms of the day and seek to find
my place. Perhaps piano calls. My mind
shifts into Beethoven or Mozart mode
and music emanates from my abode.

Then hours of writing consummate my time,
with background sound of antique clock’s sweet chime.
The soccer games and cross meets of our dear
ones fill the evenings, weekend mornings. Here

we go to watch them once again and cheer
their fine accomplishments. We pack up gear
to sit on sidelines, see the runners slide,
so effortless, it seems as if they glide.

On every Monday evening I attend
a Bible study group where women blend
their thoughts and prayers. At this I’m always filled,
as angst and worries of the day are stilled.

Once monthly I attend a writing group
where eight of us critique the others’ work.
Another writing group I joined of late,
and we host festivals, participate

in local readings, book sales, arts events.
My college friends plan gatherings. No fence
could separate us. O, how we’ve been blessed
to stay in touch. Who would have ever guessed

that nine and forty years after we left
our university we’d still be deft
in making sure our tight-knit friendships last?
And then, pièce de résistance: the blast

we have in being grandparents, this joy
so tall we can’t love more our girls and boy.
Because of Skype I teach my brother. He
now plays piano, Für Elise the key

unlocking satisfaction he’s not known.
Yes, both of us are older now, are grown,
but students we will always be. Life’s songs,
a goal, a race, a friend, a word rights wrongs.

Sometimes I simply need to take a nap.
How I resist, but know that it’s the cap
to a day that brimmed with lots to do or less.
Each element of day I cherish, press

as wildflowers in a scrapbook. O, the pines
that stand straight on the hillside are like mines
of gold that I unearth by looking. Give
me nature all around…and I can live.

Winter’s Nocturnes – A Sestina

He sits down.

Melodies unfurl with a twitch, a light trill,
And the man leans back, savouring every note
Cloaked in black, and stained with tears,
Winter’s gifts a forgotten sight. Under the stars,
He bows his head, straightens his back, and the haunting
Begins. He slams on the piano keys, sorrow a dark cloud.

He remembers lying down, watching the clouds,
He remembers the chirping birds’ magnificent trill,
He remembers her – her bright green eyes haunting
His own. Her hand, knotted
With his. He remembers lying down, watching the stars
As each twinkled, then faded, merely a tiny tear.

Yet her soulless body besieged his mind, tattered and torn.
Each passing bar, a doubtful cloud.
He sees not the stars.
He hears not the trill.
But only senses the funeral of the notes.
Like death angels chanting, dancing, haunting.

He plays to hunt
Her spirit, to guide her to fill the tear
In his heart. Each note
Forms her silhouette, dimly glowing against the black clouds,
Against the wintry mist. She smiles at each familiar trill,
Her eyes are gold, like the stars.

The music makes the fair moon and stars
Weep, for its haunting
Siren beseeches attention. Hark! Music flows like a rill,
As his fingers dance over the piano. Too abruptly, it stops. The air tears.
He hovers on the piano, like a cloud,
Contemplating. contemplating. contemplating. Too soon the notes


for your reference:
Word 1: trill
Word 2: note
Word 3: tear
Word 4: star
Word 5: haunt
Word 6: cloud

1 Comment

Blues Sonnet Challenge

A seizure plays its tunes in minor key,
the untuned music in a minor key
that screeches STOP! to all that pleases me.

Its dissonance makes nonsense in my brain,
nonsensical the dissonance. My brain
no longer hears the rhythms as they wane.

I play piano, use my hands with skill.
The many lessons have increased my skill,
but seizures cause my hands to then be still.

I love my life and want to live it well,
I try, o do I try to live it well
but seizure often throws me into hell.

I wait for melodies and songs to hear,
but dread the obbligato cast in fear.

1 Comment


One-hundred five, my grand piano sings
its songs to me and I relax from tight
tensed muscles. Beethoven can soothe and light
dark skies of sadness, unwind all the strings

that hold me like a vise. Perhaps I seized,
or someone said an unkind word that hurt.
Instead of fragrant blossoms I knew dirt,
heard aggravating voices as they teased.

My fingers run up, down the keyboard, play
my favorites, and I notice how this calms
me. Music offers needed gifts of balms.
I rub that lotion in when days turn gray.

The Gong (The Pianist Part II)

At first he gobbled up the little songs
and raced through pages of his music book.
Excited with this something-new he took
his keyboard to new heights. There were no wrongs,

just page, then one more page, of learning for
this student. He just wanted to be good.
And good he was. I do not knock on wood.
As Tom came wandering through music’s door

he understood the nuances involved.
That’s not to say that all was easy. No,
there was a slowing-down. Sometimes the flow
seemed stemmed. Was it a mindset that revolved

around the notes? Defensive attitude?
I write these things because the student told
them to me, yes, admitted that the gold
shine rusted just a bit. And music’s food,

though temporary, didn’t nourish quite
as much. He’d analyze with caveats
in hopes to once again connect the dots.
When he first learned the chord inversions, fight

rose up in him. Is there a use for this?
My student challenged me to help him know
exactly why he needed this to grow
in pianistic skill. He will not miss

this background knowledge that will teach
him structure of the keys as they relate.
He walks his attitude on through a gate,
shifts into positive gear so he can reach

his chosen goals of playing songs he likes.
His fingers and his mind make conscious strides,
and when the winds or dangerous high tides
appear, his progress is the gong that strikes.

The Pianist








Yes, I teach him piano via Skype.
My brother’s played for six months now. No day
goes by when he does not sit down to play.
He’s like a garden, rain, sun, seeds so ripe

that soon the blossoms grow. He’s learned some scales
and chords, “God Bless America,” and tunes
he likes. I, here by Michigan’s sand dunes,
hear him in Carolina’s north. The trails

he now explores include transposing and
inversions. He speaks music’s language, knows
how chords are built and every day he shows
me motivation, skill. O how this land

entrances him. He wants to practice, learn,
continue, and improve. He’s having fun.
And me? O, by the way, our mother’s son
gives me the million I could never earn.

My Brother Taking Piano Lessons

Although we’re in our sixties, we both play
piano. I had lessons many years
and now teach him, long-distance. Skype, each day,
gives us technology to oil the gears

of basics: scales and chords, inversions, songs.
The keys of C, G, D, A, F, B flat
live underneath his fingers. Singalongs
his goal, and soon he will be doing that.

So serious and motivated, he
spends time each day in practice having fun.
Something about this all has set him free,
like running in a race. “Hey, look! Tom won.”


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