Susannah Habecker © 2018

Susannah Habecker © 2018

by Anne Cheilek

Instrumental: A Ghost Ship Elegy

             —after Robert Pinsky


The harp, the pins, the action, the letoff,
the keys, the crown, the frame, the fallboard,
the hammers, the dampers, the bridge, the belly:

I confess the whole of the bride exquisite,
designed for the wages of song, now priced out,
rendered homeless. Baldwin. Bechstein. Broadwood.

Chickering. Swick. Wing and Son. This heart
made of a single Sitka spruce spotted by a redeye
lumberjack the day his girl run off, saw her

standing 150-feet tall with her sisters
in the glacial till of Washington State, delimbed
by a high climber, so fat she took all day to fell,

leaving a hungry stump and a hundred-year gap
in the wind. Down she skidded to the millpond,
quarter-sawn, stacked, slowly seasoned until

pound for pound stronger than steel.
Trimmed, cured, crowned, and now cast out
on a street corner, stripped and dumped

in a back alley. The tuning. The tempering.
The tones. The partials. The harmonics.
It would have ended there if not for a

certain savior, a curator of disaster
with 10,000 square-feet jerry-built
for the next chapter. This too proved

instrumental, how he loved to collect
multitudes—curios, knickknacks,
refinished missions of wood. How

hundreds were crammed into
the warehouse, lined up against
the walls, a glorious freakshow,

a labyrinth of salvage picked up
in cafes and junkshops. Hupfeld.
Kirschner. Knabe. Re-homed and waiting

to be set alight, waiting for some young
Rachmaninoff or Liszt. Not this unforeseen
prodigy hot at the keys, with fingers so fierce

vintage strings ping off pegs, so fiery
old elephant ivories curl up
like fists of the dying.

Caught on the stairs. Lost
in the halls. Cornered on the
second floor. Out of air.

The pine. The walnut. The oak. The maple.
The case. The lyre. The pedals. The trap.
The spark. The soundboard. The song.


Anne Cheilek is a writer, editor, and musician living in Silicon Valley. Her poems have appeared in Catamaran Literary ReaderThe Sand Hill Review, Daphne Magazine, and elsewhere. She is currently working towards her MFA at San José State University.