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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Young Writers Project: 'Piano Man'

Maisie Newbury, 17, of Weybridge, shares the tale of an aging piano player imparting uncondescending wisdom upon a younger generation.
YWP Photo Library, photo by Neelie Markley, Burlington
Maisie Newbury, 17, of Weybridge, shares the tale of an aging piano player imparting uncondescending wisdom upon a younger generation.

He spoke about the news stories.
But it was in a different sort of way,
making unspeakable tragedies
a little easier to say.

Children are dying in their schools.
People are fighting in the streets.
We hear about it every day
but never ask what's behind the scenes.

Schools were ravaged by bullets
as he played along and sang,
and his honeyed voice could be heard
from miles and miles away.

“One man's trash is another man's treasure,
one man's treasure is another man's pain,
one man's pain is another man's pleasure.
And so it goes on that way….”

He wore his treasures on his left wrist,
bracelets tied up with found stones and string.
His right hand he used to create his music,
unburdened by heavy stone rings.

He said his left hand was for decoration –
for protecting and for holding.
His right hand, though, was for calluses –
for playing, for writing, for working.

And every night he told us stories
of his life before the war:
before gay marriage, before civil rights,
before all that's worth fighting for.

He sang songs from the chain gangs.
He sang jazz, he sang blues,
and for a moment we forgot
who we were listening to.
A man who knew everything,
who fell down and still flew.
A man who, in the face of adversity,
never strayed from the truth.

We called him the “Piano Man,”
a name that made him smile.
His aged and tired eyes would light up,
piercing through their wire-rimmed borders.
His lips would curl at the corners
in a manner almost juvenile.
He told us that we were the future,
that the world would be ours in a while.

He was a man with so much love inside
it burst through his fingertips,
spilling out onto the keyboard with nothing to hide.
He played all kinds of music, about
how he couldn't see the color of his eyes…
his years living in oppression…
his life after his mother died…
about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The world, he said, was losing herself.
Today she grows weak from hearing our cry,
and before we reduce her further
we must examine what's inside.

What's behind the scenes
of these horrible things?
What is wrong? What does it mean?
Sitting at his keyboard,
he looks for the answers alongside us.

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