Natalie Perman

Natalie Perman

case study the sound of a piano overture the shape of a scarf with loose threads

mother clipped fingernails into crescent white tiles
            she pressed notes into sound with two fingers like popping a spot
she was young and her hair outgrew her in bushes of black yarn
            they knitted into her second knuckles over blooming red eczema
grandmother’s wrinkles swelled hidden in a teacup 
            kept in the microwave

grandmother tweezed threads out of mother’s fingers for the school music night
            she polished mother’s face like a shoe
the LEDs lit up her nose like a pool of oil 
            mother grinned to her friend leslie in the blue crowd
she was in eighth grade
            her thumbs-up like a boat taking on water

study design:
mother crafted her hands into a bridge then a lake then a tower 
            it could have held a month of sound at its tip 
she released e minor like a cry at the back of the throat
            ringing through the dip of the tongue

the wrong action or decision:
mother lifted a finger to scratch her nose and a note squealed its escape 
            a false note
            the bridge slumped at its left end

how the issue was handled or resolved:
mother held the pedal flat to the wooden floor
            long after she had closed her book
she hoped the sound would wind into grandmother’s ear
            tickle her muscles into a smile
she pulled the strings through her soles into a blanket that could be worn in winter
            when the snow fell heavier than light 

the lights dimmed and she bowed
            grandmother did not clap
in the car she held my mother’s ear between two fingers
            her seatbelt was undone and the road winded a loop of silver
the sky was dark and my mother wanted to wrap it like a scarf around her
            grandmother had forgotten her contacts and swerved in and out of white lines
tires swallowing tarmac like the gulp of the spotty boy onstage
            who sang ave maria with a hand hung over his chest
she cradled grandmother’s words like roadkill in her open hands.

what a disgrace
no more piano lessons

            my mother leant back and felt her hair lift from the rip in the left car door
            a bird settling on the bend of the road ahead, picking at its claws. 

key findings:
my mother dreams these memories like pulling thread
            she carries them loose on her arms in black hairs
she learnt how to make a living bending metal into earrings
            that would shine green on someone’s cheek
last year she stayed with my grandmother all night
            when she coughed until her lungs rattled like a baby’s toy
she put on a piano record- grandmother’s favourite
            and listened silently as she hummed along. 

NATALIE PERMAN studies English and German at St John’s, Oxford. She is a Foyle Young Poet, winner of the Forward Student Critic’s Award, the Mapleton-Bree Prize and various challenges connected to the Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network.