I wait in the lobby of a music store torn down
for the sake of the city only five years later.
The old woman behind the counter has a smear
of ointment over something on her forehead.
I cannot hear the practice going on down in
the chamber where my teacher takes her time
explaining chords to someone far beyond my level.

If anyone could beat the devil at his twisted
music games it would be her in all her ancient
daily practice. I watch her calloused fingers
check the tuning of my strings until her eyes
match up with sound now without waves.
I wonder what she looked like in her prime
and who she played with long before
she wound up teaching in the basement
of this store, and how much more is she
aware of than I have yet to even start
to understand?

I will not hide behind a band or anything
that makes me something more, but I will
pour my every word into this furnace
just to forge a chance at something to
believe in. I quit before I knew anything
of note but sometimes I’ll remember
what it felt like to have someone there to guide
me in an art that was just certain simple
sounds before the world.

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