Monday, October 5, 2020

Nicole McCarthy : Grandma Piano



I’m watching videos of my grandma from three months ago—she’s playing the piano. Dementia has yet to touch her procedural memory of ivory. A laugh escapes as she misses a key. She plays Clair de Lune like the notes live in the grooves of her fingerprints. I know soon her laugh will only exist in five second soundbites right next to the voicemails I saved from grandpa.


There is a room inside her melodic laugh—

A space where she remembers what happened yesterday.

A space where she can easily recall the names of her grandchildren.

A space where her love still exists, sitting on her embroidered couch, asking for another cup of coffee. He smiles at her and she no longer remembers the feeling of waking up to cold sheets alone.

I play these videos for an hour or more

feeling like a human learning how to mourn. 




Nicole McCarthy earned her MFA from the University of Washington Bothell where she worked with Renee Gladman, Amaranth Borsuk, and Rebecca Brown. Her work has appeared or in The Offing, Redivider, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, The Shallow Ends, Ghost Proposal, Tinderbox Poetry, Memoir Mixtapes, Civil Coping Mechanism's A Shadow Map anthology, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, and the 2018 Best American Experimental Writing anthology. Her work has also been performed and encountered as projection installation pieces throughout Tacoma and Seattle and her written work can be found at She is a 2018 Artist Trust GAP award recipient.

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