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Tuesday, February 07, 2006


(For Robert Grillo, 1952-2005)

by Peter Bates

For years, he tuned the instruments
of the well-heeled.
He sweetened the sour notes, pumped up the flats,
shaved sharps till they no longer stung.
“I think we’re getting there,” he’d say
as a piano slowly recalled its glory days.
Under his power, suburban Steinways showed their teeth
and baby grands stopped bawling.
What he got in return was an almost living wage.
Last week, they couldn’t silence the cacophony in his body.
His blood cells were so far off-key,
no tuning forks could bring them back.
Needles and tubes screeched through him,
louder than the Franklin high band.
The day his organs slammed shut,
he looked up and said to his wife,
“I think we’re getting there. I’m sorry.”
Dressed in black and white,
she welcomed mourners near the G-clef wreath.
In church, Amazing Grace played
and the organ flatted out at middle D.

Peter Bates has been writing poems and stories since he was sixteen. He has published in the St. John's Prep Concordia, The Bates College Student, The Newpaper, the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix, Bostonia, the Boston Business Journal, Radical America, Liberation, Lynx Eye, Aspect, American Book Review, Cineaste, Film Quarterly, Laughing Bear, Gray Wolf, Jump Cut, the Potomac Review, Gypsy, Stony Hills, and a score of other magazines named after animals and places. In addition to poetry, he has published film criticism, interviews, short stories, book reviews, and journalism. He has worked as a power plant tour guide, a vacuum cleaner coroner, a librarian, film critic, technical writer, teacher, photographer, computer consultant, and videographer.