So you want to quit your piano lesson

So you want to quit your piano lesson

You are staring out at the window while you talk

Creasing the edge of a Bach Prelude with your fingers

 

You tell me life is getting in your way

How busy you get and how little time you have

You sound like a reed swaying in the wind

 

Maybe you wanted me to help change your mind

But I only said, “I will miss you.” 

Who was I to truly gauge the depth of your sadness?

 

Oh how I was thrilled listening to you

Your hands finding new contours, fresh hues in the piece

Birds, cars, foghorns from the sea all stopped making noise 

 

To you the keys weren’t black and white, but amber, jade and violet 

Each piece of music was a fresh canvas, an open playground

Your arms bounced like a dancer on a trapeze

 

I tried not to be a conformist

I thought I understood the swan in you

Under your haughty gaze, you were fragile

Underneath the still surface, you struggled

You refused to fly off on a moment’s notice

You knew you would fall down too soon

Your heart yearned for the sublime

But your wings were still tied to the ground

 

Maybe logic seemed stiff, cold and ugly to you

But try putting a feather inside a box

It won’t fly away from your hand

 

So you want to quit your piano lesson

Here is my last message to you

 

Love the piano the way you love someone deeply

Give it the freedom and shelter it deserves

 

Someday

You may visit me and tell me

That you really haven’t quit at all

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Illustration copyright © 2019 Chie Kwon

 

Little songs are like marbles

Little songs are like marbles

They give me colors to play with

Topaz, azure, sparkling green

 

I pick them up and toss them

today, tomorrow, up, down

 

Marbles skitter over ivory keys

in crazy directions

Rolling off my palm through my fingers

 

I am listening in

I am listening out

These are two sides of the same thing

 

I chase them over the rainbow

I use my arms like wings

The clouds catch me 

 

The piano is flying  

 

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Illustration Copyright ©Chie Kwon

 

Staccato.

Staccato.

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“A note of shortened duration, separated from the note that may be followed by silence.”  — Wikipedia

What is a staccato?

A short note.

A note that’s detached.

A note that is played percussively.

It sure sounds more chipper than regular notes.

But it can be played gently too.

 

How fast must a staccato be?

A second? Half a second?

Can I play a short note a little longer?

Well it depends, my teacher says.

 

Can it sound dry

like a wood chip flying in the carpenter’s shop?

 

Can it be wet

like chewed gum stuck on the cork board before it falls off?

 

Can it sound round and mellow

Like the voice of a newborn chick?

 

Can it sound jagged and sad

like the midnight cry of a jackal pup?

 

A staccato.

I’m mystified.

A short note followed by silence.

Silence preceded by a short note?

Why does it have to be preceded?

Can I start a piece with silence, then a short note?

Will people notice the silence?

Of course not,

unless I say, “I start my piece with silence.”

But then, it doesn’t really begin with silence, does it?

 

What is silence?

What is a staccato?

 

What!

Is!

Staccato!!??

 

If you want to sing better…

If you want to sing better, take care of your breathing.

If you want to sing higher, take care of your breathing.

If you want to sing louder, take care of your breathing.

If you want to sing longer, take care of your breathing.

If you are sad in the middle of singing, inhale, let the breath warm your heart.

If you are too happy, exhale, let the breath cool your body, watch it float…

away…..

Like a dandelion seed in the breeze.

 

Breathing is a miracle.

Breathing is believing.

Breathing is trusting.

Breathing is the beginning

and

the ending.

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ジャスト・プレイ・フォー・ミー (祈っとくれよ)

祈っとくれよ,お嬢さん

祈っとくれよ,あたしの為に

あんたいい人みたいだからさ

あたしの話を聴いておくれよ

でもすぐに忘れてくれていいんだよ

そういって彼女は悲しい身の上話を始めた

 

長い道のりを歩いて来たんだよ

悔いばかりが残ってる

為にならない事ばかりしてきた

誰もいやしない

こんな惨めな人間なんか

ずっと監獄に入れられてるみたいなひどい気分なのさ

 

ある日やっぱり飲みたくなってバーに行った

でもいたたまれなくなったんだ

バーテンに声をかけたら 急に

その顔がイエス様に見えたんだ

ぎょっとして床に膝をついちまった

やっと外まで這っていったんだ

振り向いたとき思わず叫んだ

だってあの緋色の女がニタニタ笑って

ウィスキーの瓶を振りかざしてたんだ

そう、腐れ縁の古い知り合いさ

 

だから、祈っとくれよ,お嬢さん

祈っとくれよ、あたしのために

あてなんてないよ

今夜過ごす場所すらも

誰もいやしない

こんな淋しい人間なんか

祈っとくれよ、せめて

祈っとくれよ、あたしのために

夜も遅い十時頃、サンフランシスコは下町のラーキン通りを歩いていました。どの角にも、ホームレスがいて、近づいてくるのです。昨今の家不足と悪くなる一方の生活環境の中、地べたに寝るスペースを確保するだけでも、彼らにとっては大変な競争なのでしょう。 歩行者に一ドルでも多く出させる為には、ただ哀れっぽく乞うだけではなく、もっと面白いやり方をしないと駄目なようです。

一人の男はサミー・ヘイガーよろしく、頭のてっぺんから叫んでいました。本当に苦しんでいたのか、それとも余興なのか?もう一人は背の高い、筋肉隆々の男性。彼は通りを横切って私の方に来ました。親しげな笑顔で笑いかけると、彼はTシャツの袖をまくり上げて,逞しい腕を見せてくれました。喜んでボディーガードになるというのです。 一晩中ボディーガードを雇う程には財布の余裕がある由も無く、二ドルを渡すと、それでも彼は笑顔を絶やさず、去っていきました。

読者の中には、私と同じように、一体どんな辛い偶然が重なって,ホームレスの多くは、路上に寝起きするようになったのだろうと、想像を巡らせる方もいらっしゃると思います。彼らの多くは、普通の人達で、真面目に毎日働いていたのかもしれない。急に重い病気にかかったのかもしれない。働けないという事は、給料がストップするという事で、給料がもらえないという事は、家賃、家のローンが払えないということで、頼る近親者もなく、友人も無く、あれよあれよという間に、路上生活が始まったのかもしれない。こういったタイプのホームレスが現れ始めたのは比較的最近で、2008年の経済危機の後は、ひどくなる一方のようです。

他にも、荒んだ家庭に育った人々もいます。あまり賢いとは言えない大人達に生活を支配された幼少時代。身体的、精神的、社会的にも虐待された過去。飲酒、ドラッグ、売春などは、それらの過去に受けた傷が、ただ単に表に現れた結果なのかもしれません。

そんなことを考えてみると、ある境遇を生きた人にとって、生き方を変えるためには自己の強い意志以上のものが必要なのではないでしょうか。「私には、生きる価値がある」ということを強く,深く信じられる何かが必要なのではないのでしょうか。『祈っとくれよ』の主人公にはそうした希望がありません。それがただただ悲しい。

信仰をとっくに無くした彼女にとって、「神」は過去の悪い所行の報いを求めに訪れる恐ろしい存在でしかない。彼女の人生には何の意味も無い。そうおののきながらも、見知らぬ通行人に取りすがり、「そうではない」と言ってもらいたい。

ふと私は思いました。「慈悲心」というのは、「想像心」ということなのではないだろうかと。ある人の立場になろう,その人が経験した事をもっと肌で感じようと想像力を働かせば働かせる程、慈悲の心も増すのではないでしょうか。この曲を書いたのも、そうした想いを伝えたかったからかもしれません。

私はこの曲のモデルに会った事はありません。でも、ある意味ではもう、どこかで出会っているのかも知れませんね。この曲を聴いて、気に入っていただけたら、読者の方々も、ぜひ想像力を膨らませて下さい。そしてもし、この話の続きを作って下されば、うれしいな。そして、あなたのお話の中では、彼女がもう少し幸せになってくれることを願います。

Just Pray For Me

I was walking on Larkin Street in downtown San Francisco at ten in the evening. At almost every block, panhandlers approached me. With the housing crisis and the continued decline of living quality in a big city like SF, even securing a space on the sidewalk seems to meet tough competition. In order to entice pedestrians to chuck out a dollar or two for them, they got to do something interesting instead of just begging.

One guy was belting out from the top of his head like Sammy Hagar. Was it because he was in real pain, or for show? Another guy was a tall, muscular guy. He crossed the street to meet me. With a big friendly smile on his face, he rolled up his T-shirt to show me his well-sculpted arms. He told me he was happy to be my bodyguard. I didn’t have enough to hire him all night. I gave him only a couple of dollars. Without losing his smile, he quietly walked away.

I’m sure some of you readers must have wondered like me, what twisted combinations of ill circumstances brought them to live on the street night after night. Some of them have been working diligently. Then they got sick. Unable to go to work, the paycheck stopped. No pay, no money for the rent or mortgage. They had no relatives or friends to depend on, so they were out on the street. This is a relatively new type of homelessness.

Some of other homeless people might have grown up in broken homes. Incompetent adults, who themselves lacked wisdom, might have dominated their lives. Some of them might have been regularly neglected and abused physically, mentally and socially. Alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution are just a few of the outcomes of causations deeply rooted in their past.

It seems to me, changing the way we are takes more than our will power. We need to feel that our lives matter in a deep, concrete sense. The character in this song, “Just Pray For Me,” saddens me because she lacks the sense. Here are the lyrics.

Just pray for me, lady
Just pray for me
You seem like a lady with a good heart
I’ll tell you my story
But I hope you soon forget
And that’s how she told me her saddest part
I been walkin’ down the road
With regrets in my heart
I done many bad things to myself
Nobody ought to be
As miserable as me
I felt wretched like a yard bird in his cell
One day I went to the bar for my usual fill
But somehow it was more than I could stand
When I called out to the barkeep
I saw the face of Jesus
I dropped my knees right on the ground
“Then I crawled outside
As fast as I could
Then I cried when I looked back again
This time I saw the scarlet woman grinnin’
Flashing at a whiskey bottle, my old friend
So pray for me, lady
Just pray for me
I don’t know where I’ll be
At the end of the day
Nobody ought to be
As lonesome as me
Just pray for me
Just pray for me
Copyright ©2015 by Chie Kwon-Treagus

 She had lost faith in a conventional concept of God long time ago. All she fears is retribution for her wrongdoing. She cannot believe that her life has a meaning. Yet she prays that someone tells her it does.

I thought one day, “Maybe compassion means imagination.” What I meant was, the more vivid imagination you exercise in order to be in the position of others, the more you succeed in being compassionate. This song was born out of my attempt to have empathic imagination on someone’s suffering.

I’ve never met this person. But in a way I have. When you listen to this song, I hope you use your imagination as well. Let me know if you were able to create a great sequel to this story. I hope in your version, she gets to live a happier life.