The Piano Student

Glissandos flow like rivers from the keys,
One by one, you slide with practiced skill
And let us hear some hidden melodies,
Delighting in these notes that lift and thrill.

When you play Bach or other masterpieces,
Interpreting in ways that give a new
Shape to complex music, that releases
Now a voice that comes from deep in you.
Each listener can hear your fingers trace
Surprising variations from the score.

That even showed upon your focused face.
Recital celebrants still hope for more.
Each note you play that blesses us through art
Has helped the Spirit fill each yearning heart.



Royal Rhodes is a retired professor of global religions at Kenyon College, and a life-long student of the Classics. He studied under the late Robert Fisher Healey S.J., Oxford and Harvard educated authority on ancient literature and the co-author of the important edition of the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis. Healey was the treasured Magus who led Rhodes into the mysteries of Greek and Roman religion and literature.

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6 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    What a wonderful poem that takes me back to what could have been. My aunt Louella Gall played for Lawrence Welk and all over the state with a rocking piano style using the entire keyboard. My mother wanted me to be like her, since I was a singer that won first place in solo at the state contest for three years. After trying to teach me piano, I said I would rather feed the chickens, so in her disappointment she let me. She would not let me learn guitar, since she felt that was an instrument of the devil. Anyway, if I had seriously studied piano, I would have had an instrument to accompany myself. I entertained throughout my adult life winning festivals, but always had to rely on someone else for the instrumentals. Pardon my little story, but your poem took me back in memories and regrets of what could have been.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    This is a lovely and well-crafted poem, with sophisticated use of diction and syntax, and just enough enjambment.

    I like the way the poet has divided his sonnet into three sections: a quatrain at start and finish, and a sestet in the middle. Instead of the expected volta, he has a musical arrangement.

  3. Sally Cook

    It is too bad you preferred the chickens to the eighty-eight, Roy. I learned a lot about poetry from the piano! Life is strange, isn’t it? Lovely poem, Royal.

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Royal, this is a lovely poem. Over in the UK, we currently have a tv series called “The Piano.” It features “ordinary” folk playing public pianos. Some of the participants are spellbinding, but the best of all is the blind, 13 year old girl with neurodiversity, playing Chopin. “Blind girl playing piano in train station” is on YouTube and certainly worth a visit. The power of the instrument to reduce grownups to tears is summed up in your work today. Thank you.


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