by Joanna White
My appendix, expendable
could definitely go.
We have two kidneys
do we not?
Surely I could manage
without one of those.
Do I hear gall bladder?
We hardly need them
I have heard.
What about the flute
Is that one of the parts
that can be done without?
- Letter to Johann Sebastian Bach
I take my seat at the piano, set alight
the counterpoint, tight as needlepoint,
grand plan imagined by you. I curl
into the keys, hum along, but middle
and ring fingers move as if fused,
no auto-pilot kicking in to scuttle
my fingers like mice, up and down
the scales, depressing each key
equally. My left hand jumbles, a fist
with two thumbs. I was so sure your
“Goldberg Variations” was burned
into my brain like the spiraled vines
of a tattoo, symmetry true. But it
is not true. Your notes remain dots
on the staff, your marked coffin
in Leipzig only a rectangle of dust.
- To the Elephant at the Piano
What am I doing here?…
I’m a flutist, for crying-out-loud!
Your squat log legs squeeze under the piano
just so. They could not reach the pedals
even if there were pedals. Your chunks
of arms dangle at his side; they could not
even pretend to tickle the bones. Your pupils
swirl in their sockets. What are you doing
there on stage, audience a-twitter?
And the music…How will it begin?
- Letter to My Lips
Corkscrew curls of wind
to the rim. Send two
columns of air spinning,
to turn us dizzy
as a record, taking us all
back to before we could read
the notes on the staff, dance
our fingers on the keys, or feel
the beat––before our feet
could catch the rhythms, lift
us up. Focus the breath; coax
a silver tone. Be too busy
to tell my secrets.
- Note to Self
It’s not all Carnival of Venice, you know, its trills
like pearls escaping, its sixty-fourths bubbling up
to the chandelier. Today Hotteterre’s Tourtourelles,
plaintive as the doves in the eaves. Yesterday
Density 21.5, platinum shrieking. Vox Balanae
tomorrow, a green message from the deep,
or just as likely (if it is Brahms) the flute will blare
the horn call from the mountaintop. Next Wednesday
the Badinerie, perhaps, your tongue flicking
like a sparking wick. When the orchestra plays
Elgar’s “Nimrod” in memoriam, remember that once,
in despair, the composer received a friend, who sang
the Pathetique to plead his case that Beethoven
went on… and so must you.
Joanna White has works published in The Examined Life Journal, Ars Medica, Healing Muse, Abaton, American Journal of Nursing, The Intima, Earth’s Daughters, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, MacGuffin, Cape Rock, Chariton Review, Pulse, Temenos, Measure, Naugatuck River Review as a finalist in their poetry contest, and in the Poetry and Medicine column of JAMA. She gives poetry readings at conferences (including a full-session reading at the 2016 Examined Life Conference at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine) and performs and records as an orchestral and chamber music flutist.