The Pretender

by Matthew Lippman

I used to try and play this old piano.
It stood upright in a corner by the back door under a skylight.
The keys were not finely tuned and sometimes the pedals did not work,
but I pushed anyway.
I sat for hours and knew the chords with my right hand
but couldn’t do shit with my left.
I pretended.
For hours I played one song pretending
I would perform it in front of 100,000 people
in an open meadow in Glasgow or a field
just outside of New Paltz.
I have been pretending ever since.
That I know how to fix a carburetor,
kill large numbers of ants when they run rough shot through the kitchen,
kiss my daughters before leaving for work.
I pretend that I know how to make money and spend it on organic broccoli
and inexpensive sneakers with the blue stripes.
And love; forget about love.
It’s a masquerade, a con job, and most days I don’t even know how to say hello
without someone else’s face covering my face.
Yesterday it was the face of Brunel, from Roslindale,
and the day before that, Steve Jobs, although he is dead
and I hate technology.
This morning, it’s Elton John.
I tap these keys like it’s a piano and think that this poem is “Levon.”
It’s that old song from the ’70s,
the one I spent hours trying to play on that old piano
shoved in the corner where all the sunlight came.
It ripped through a skylight and illuminated my body when I was naked,
when I was dressed in feathers and sequins,
when the crowd went wild
even though I had no idea what my right hand was saying to my left
running up the keyboard trying, like broken birds,
to get it right.