by Katherine Gekker
Poetry class starts at 7:30. I arrive at 7:15.
Parking costs 25 cents for 30 minutes.
Meters are enforced till 10. Class ends
at 9:45. When I spot classmates, I casually
disclose, I left my watch at home. I’ve put 27
quarters in the meter—is that enough? Each
week I find a different person to ask. I buy
rolls of quarters at the bank. The teller
can’t tell me how many quarters I need.
She says she doesn’t understand poetry. Meter
maids patrol the lot, ticket the scofflaws, extract
clattering coins from machines. I insert 5
quarters into my parking meter, their
drop systolic rhythm, their sequence iambic
pentameter. They race through dark pipes like
cells raced through my mother’s glands. When
our father died, my brother and I lost one
quarter of our family. When our mother
died, one third of our family was gone. Now
here I am stuffing quarters into a slot, calculating.
by Katherine Gekker
(After “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry)
Paper flakes onto my piano when I turn the page to Beethoven’s
Sonata #19 in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1. This score belonged to
my first piano teacher, my father, who died 46 years ago.
Roll over Beethoven.
My John Thompson Teaching Little Fingers to Play books
contain my father’s notes to me—how to count, a reminder not
to forget the B flat in measure 12. No directions exist for the
My father’s silences increase.
I remember his love of the Brahms Intermezzi, his humming,
off-key, as he played Schubert’s lieder. My father and I heard
Sviataslov Richter’s first recital outside the Soviet Union. We
sat where we always sat at Constitution Hall—house left so we
could watch the pianist’s hands. Richter played Beethoven, and,
of course, Tchaikovsky.
Roll over Beethoven. Tell Tchaikovsky the news.
When I was 16, my father and I flew to San Francisco, stayed in
the elegant St. Francis Hotel, listened to the pianist in the lobby.
Back home, I announced, “I want to be a cocktail lounge pianist.”
My father’s face paled. He said, “Okay, but whatever you do,
never date a saxophonist.”
Roll over Beethoven. Hear these rhythm and blues.
I stopped playing piano after my father died. Three years ago I
finally rolled back the keyboard cover of my father’s hand-made
Chickering. My fingers remembered the feel of its ebony and
ivory keys, but unfortunately, the tuner told me the soundboard is
cracked beyond repair. I bought a new piano.
Beethoven titled his 19th Sonata “Easy.” I’ve been practicing the
first movement since June. I haven’t even looked at the second
Beethoven directs the pianist to play dolce, melancolico, tranquillo.
Roll over Beethoven. Tell my father the news.
by Katherine Gekker
A snapping turtle breaststrokes forward.
Nails clatter loud on macadam,
his spiked tail whipsaws.
Behind his big biting head, dried
mud cakes the turtle’s checkerboard
shell, its edges eaves of a pagoda.
He startles me—daydreaming on my walk—
still half asleep after thrashing
all night in a too-big bed,
my mind rehashing old arguments.
When another creature bellows
from a nearby pond—deep,
echoing—my turtle turns his head,
plops off the path.
Feet sawmill through air—
he slides down a bank, sinks
into mud next to a mate.
Side by side, snouts in the air,
two scaly necks vibrate, two
rough voices sing in unison.
Later tonight it might be too quiet to
sleep, the bed again too empty.
Or perhaps I will not be able to sleep
for the sound of singing.
Katherine Gekker’s poems have been published or are
forthcoming in Panoply, Cobalt Review, District Lines,
Broadkill Review, Little Patuxent Review, Little Lantern
Press’s anthology on loss, Northern Virginia Review, and
elsewhere. Eight of her poems, collectively called “…to Cast
a Shadow Again,” have been set to music by composer Eric
Ewazen and are available on CD and iTunes. Composer
Carson Cooman has also set a seasonal cycle of four of
Gekker’s poems to music; “Chasing Down the Moon” is
available on CD.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 12, Number 1
Copyright © 2017
by Leah Browning, Editor.
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