Piano Recital
by Charles L. Cingolani

One icy winter evening an eight-year-old
walked across our High School stage
to a Steinway concert grand
where she sat with dangling feet
playing an Allemande
by Johann Sebastian Bach
with such perfection
that every one of us
lept to our feet and clapped
almost before she had finished.

She came to the edge and curtsied,
we applauded and kept on
till she returned, nine times,
sobbing at first, faltering next,
brushing away tears
trembling, then falling.

They carried her from the stage,
her parents' hands
that had been waiting in the wings.

Our clapping, already muffled, slowed
with awareness dawning
then ceased suddenly altogether
with light bursting into our not-knowing
and we understood,
as if some radiant angel had come
to avenge our having harmed her
by making us conscious of
the suffering we had caused her.