I decided to write a short story/vignette based on a poem I picked from Tender Buttons. Even though I don’t know any of the inner meanings according to Stein herself, I decided to give a possible interpretation for her poem “A PIANO.” (found on page 19) As was my goal, I found I was able to roughly incorporate each of the phrases of the poem in some way. Additionally, the subtle themes of sentimental objects/places and of time I ended up with slightly reminded me of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
Her hands flew across the piano while the overwhelming smell of her sister’s scones wafted in from the kitchen, having just burned in the oven. The piano in question had not moved a foot for a few generations now; while everything else had changed- children were born, furniture rearranged in various rooms, wars waged on outside the home, a couple crossed the threshold for the first time after having wed- that piano had been the older woman’s constant companion since the day she was first taught the keys as a child. A piano was her sense of home.
Guests continued to arrive as the housekeeper rushed to scrub splattered multicolored specks off the walls, the pianist’s six-year-old niece having gotten into trouble with the paints a few minutes prior. The girl played with her nanny’s buttons as she was carried away, mesmerized by the fading colors of her masterpiece. The piano’s tempo varies, slowing down then speeding back up, working its way up to a lively, yet proper tune. Now dressed in a green, frilly dress she did not appear happy with, the girl is brought to the table for her birthday dinner. The piano ceases its joy as the pianist joins the meal. She can now hear the guests gossiping and is grateful her family’s household is too proper and self-respecting to be the subject of any scathing remarks. The meal ends with cake, and the pianist resumes her melody.
The constant sounds of chatter fade as guests begin to depart. The music is paused as the pianist stands up to lead her niece over to her beloved piano. She points out the keys and teaches their names as her niece tries out the keys. She begins to play.