POETRY by Ann Hostetler

MAY 2006

Vespers

I see my mother’s heart
its chambers pumping rhythmically
once more. She watches, too,
as the sonographer sends short inaudible
waves through her skin. They return
an image of atria opening to welcome
oxygenated blood, cone-shaped echoes
of movement in black and white. The last heart I’d seen
pumping through sound waves belonged to a child
cradled in my uterine walls. I remember the cool
transducer sliding in slick gel across my taut
belly, systolic and diastolic alternations
beating like a beacon on the screen. Before me
now the floppy hands of mother’s mitral valve
open and close in evening prayer.

Moving the Piano

by Ann Hostetler

“It makes a beautiful little nest,”
my mother tells me when I ask her
how to move her baby grand to my house.
I’m bewildered. “Just unscrew the legs and pedals.
Then fold down the music rack and lock
the cover,” she explains. I find the silver skeleton key
lying on the closed black keyboard cover
when I walk into her empty house to wait
for the piano movers. They ask for a light,
but all of the lamps have been moved to her new apartment
in the retirement home. “We can go by feel,”
they say from under the piano where they lie
on their backs like giant cockroaches.
The piano sits on three legs attached by pairs of bolts.
“She’s a well-made instrument.” But two of the leg bolts
are missing. “Take this one to the hardware store
and they’ll find you a match,” one of the movers
tries to reassure me. “Just don’t move the piano
after we set it up.” The other one drops a bolt
from the last matching pair into my palm. I finger
its grooves, striated like the muscles of my mother’s heart.
After the piano is reassembled in my living room,
I call to thank her. She can’t get her breath.

Ann Hostetler is associate professor of English at Goshen College where she teaches literature and creative writing. She is the author of Empty Room with Light: Poems (Pandora Press US, 2002) and the editor of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2003).