Music Lessons

My mother sent us to piano lessons,
not because she wanted us to learn
the piano, but because she wanted us to be
the kind of children who learned the piano,
just as she dressed us in felt hats
and brass-buttoned double-breasted
coats on a Sunday, as if by buttoning us
tightly enough she could turn us into
Princess Anne. The teacher

in a homemade brocade dress, hair
permed in sausage curls, shouted
adagiorallentandoda capo and other things
I didn’t understand. I could make out which key
matched which note, but rhythm
eluded me, never understood why
some notes were coloured in or had dots
after them and some didn’t. Maybe
no-one explained it properly; maybe
you had to be born with it. There was a cabinet

of Merrano glass beside the baby grand
and that’s what’s stayed with me: the way
the red one caught fire in the sunlight,
the green one beside it stayed dull.
A handkerchief bowl, glass
pretending to be something else. I couldn’t
manage an octave: my fingers wouldn’t stretch
that far, could never stretch as far as

my mum wanted. So, I had to stop.
Then, on the top floor of the Tech,
group guitar lessons. I looked forward to plastic
beakers of hot chocolate from the vending
machine, the teacher, dressed down
for the weekend in the kind of clothes
my dad wore to work. I strummed away
like mad, while kids with more confidence
than me sang “Poverty Knock” in RP.

Melanie Branton

If you have any thoughts on this poem, 
Melanie Branton   would be pleased to hear them.