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The Player Piano

 I ate pancakes one night in a Pancake House
Run by a lady my age.
She was gay.
When I told her that I came from Pasadena She laughed and said, "I lived in Pasadena When Fatty Arbuckle drove the El Molino bus.
" I felt that I had met someone from home.
No, not Pasadena, Fatty Arbuckle.
Who's that? Oh, something that we had in common Like -- like -- the false armistice.
Piano rolls.
She told me her house was the first Pancake House East of the Mississippi, and I showed her A picture of my grandson.
Going home -- Home to the hotel -- I began to hum, "Smile a while, I bid you sad adieu, When the clouds roll back I'll come to you.
" Let's brush our hair before we go to bed, I say to the old friend who lives in my mirror.
I remember how I'd brush my mother's hair Before she bobbed it.
How long has it been Since I hit my funnybone? had a scab on my knee? Here are Mother and Father in a photograph, Father's holding me.
.
.
.
They both look so young.
I'm so much older than they are.
Look at them, Two babies with their baby.
I don't blame you, You weren't old enough to know any better; If I could I'd go back, sit down by you both, And sign our true armistice: you weren't to blame.
I shut my eyes and there's our living room.
The piano's playing something by Chopin, And Mother and Father and their little girl Listen.
Look, the keys go down by themselves! I go over, hold my hands out, play I play -- If only, somehow, I had learned to live! The three of us sit watching, as my waltz Plays itself out a half-inch from my fingers.

by Randall Jarrell
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