Is what the girl most loves to practice—that sensible sequence of four

chunky chords, the bass part of that playful duet


handed down from my own

generation—the faster, the better. And loud.


Over and over she plays it, the way I tried

in 7th grade, to play Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” in one


minute or less, never getting it down below eighty

seconds.  Since then, I’ve learned that Chopin’s


title is not original; Frédéric did not write for the clock as I’d assumed

but for a countess, and


in the back of his mind, a small dog chasing its tail.  Or maybe

that’s just what he said


to keep his biographer happy, had been responding instead, to some

other urgency, something to keep


pace with his darting mind, his heart about to be shunned by his only love,

the soul he could no longer contain


now given to us to be reborn each time our fingers burn.

Oh, but the child I was


knew nothing of pacing. She played that waltz fast and furious, never

the slightest hesitation within


or in-between measures, where deep feeling can, in hands that listen

to the heart, steal out of hiding.


What did it take to break me of this habit?  Failed loves of my own?

Plunges into layers of grief that drown the soul?


What is it I wish for this girl with fingers of fire?

This girl who is still whole.



Ingrid Wendt is the author of five books of poems, most recently Evensong (Truman State University Press). She has co-edited the Oregon poetry anthology From Here We Speak and the textbook/anthology In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Arts. A Fulbright Senior Professor in Germany and the recipient of an Ondarte residency in Akumal, Mexico, in 2012-2013, her poems have recently appeared in Cascadia, Oregon EnglishCirque, and The Poeming Pigeon anthology on the theme of “News.” Wendt was married for 48 years to the poet and writer Ralph Salisbury (1926-2017), and she lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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