When I play piano, my grandmother wants to cry
By Grace Yu
This piece captures intergenerational strength and familial unity through a series of moments described through piano music.
Low, muted notes of a fragmented harmony, Like an old man dying, my mother said, In his last moments, what was his song? broken, warm, luminous, sunshine This is why all the people in the nursing home look with painful tenderness, why five years of piano, of taut muscle and hushed fingertips isn’t enough to understand Worshipful cadence leaning toward gentle intimacy, kaleidoscopically scattered melodies framing a fragile break, In this bright room, where is my sorrow? My grandmother rests her work-worn fingers on our forlorn couch, humming her strength into veined hands my wordless lyricism penetrating hidden frailty, my homely reverence touching palatable stillness My grandmother sighs, barely audible, with tears in her eyes. And in the kitchen, my mother starts to cry.
I wrote this poem at a Girls Write Now Friday Night Salon with Darien Hsu Gee, who taught us how to write compelling micro narratives about our family and heritage. I wanted to write about me, my mother and my grandmother, three generations of strong women connected through our love of classical piano.
Grace Yu is a first year student at Northwestern University. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing music and making origami. She has been published in Taking Our Place in History: The Girls Write Now 2020 Anthology, as well as her high school’s art and literature magazines. In the Emerging Poets category for the 2022 ruth weiss Foundation Awards, Grace was selected as a finalist for her poem “Love Story," an homage to the stunning diversity of oceanic life.