Beethoven Haus, Bonn
His home is as his mother might’ve kept it –
tidied up, waiting.
House of a thousand notes and sorrows,
he’s already left.
He’ll not be back from Vienna this time,
and she’s long dead.
We find it serious – oil portraits, creaking boards,
facsimile scores behind glass, instruments in cabinets,
the Hammerklavier locked up.
Here’s his viola – the worn fingerboard
proof of his touch;
here the greetings cards exchanged with Eleonore,
proof of his affection;
and here his youthful silhouette, portraits of two brothers:
we believe in him.
But what of the siblings who died in childhood,
his mother’s grief?
Where are his father’s downed bottles,
the awful debts?
Where’s joy, Ludwig?
Great master. Small boy.
Half-way through your first piano lesson,
you placed your right thumb on Middle C
and up the scale like a shot you went
for the next eleventy years.
As your mother, I exaggerate, must say:
You took to it straight off,
handling plump crochets four to the bar,
as if born with this pulse.
You understood the maths of it –
how four goes into four to make
the whole fraction of common time,
a signature for childhood.
One afternoon, we saw a swan
unlock his wings in simple beats.
Whump Whump Whump Whump.
He took to the skies.
Liz Lefroy won the Café Writers Prize in 2017, and has published three pamphlets of poetry. Her year book of fifty-two selected blogs, I Buy A New Washer, launches in December 2020. Twitter @LizLefroy