Schumann’s Gift


Julia Nunnally Duncan


“Come, hear this composition.
It is for you.”
And Clara stands behind him
as he plays the piano,
her fingertips touching his hair
that curls on his collar.

She savors Robert’s music,
expressive and lovely,
yet she notices again
his crippled right hand
damaged years ago
when he tried to improve upon
the gift that nature had given him.
She presses his shoulder
with her virtuoso’s fingers—
strong and perfect—
but her touch is tender,
for he is her love.
While he plays the melody,
the piano strings ring to him
like distant bells
from a Rhineland valley,
fainter this evening than they
would have been yesterday.
Soon his hearing may be lost forever.
But he still feels everything:
her fingers in his hair,
her grasp on his shoulder.
To hold her is to embrace dawn,
rain-sweetened and clear;
not terrifying like the night
of his mind
that carries scant hope of
moon or stars to brighten his way.
His wife is his light, his day.
He plays and she listens,
putting aside her own talents
and glory,
for a while.
This is his moment.
Yet to Robert the moment is Clara’s,
and he tries to finish his gift of song,
but the piano keys blur
as his tears well
for love of her.



Julia Nunnally Duncan lives in Marion, NC, with her husband Steve and daughter Annie. Besides creative writing, Julia studied classical piano and harpsichord at Warren Wilson College.  Her latest book is a poetry collection At Dusk, released in 2010 by Old Seventy Creek Press.


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