Playing for Rabbits

When I was raking the lawn
a woman stopped to say,
Are you the one who plays the piano?

I confessed. Everyday she walks slowly
up the street, then back in half an hour.
We’ve smiled before, praised the weather.

One morning I saw a rabbit on your lawn
sitting up, listening. We both did.
It was still listening when I left.

Next day I opened the window wide.
This time three came, an old fellow, gray
in the muzzle, others blinking but attentive.

They left when I quit. All night
I tried to sleep, stay calm.
What, I wondered, does a rabbit hear?

Do they prefer Mozart to Bach?
Will they listen again, shake their heads,
wander off to the neighbors’ yards

where on a sultry evening blues twang
from some kid’s guitar? Isn’t Classical
dead? I woke, looked at the empty lawn,

went down as sun burned off the dew,
and began. They came slowly, by threes
and fours. I tried not to fluff notes,

played Bach, saw by solemn twitch
of many noses they understood intentions
were as important as polish.

For days they brought their kin,
even telling the snowshoes to travel
from their lonely fields into the city.

Soon they began clapping their ears,
a soft rubbing of fur I could hear
only because so many cheered me on.

When I tried Chopin or Brahms
they began to graze, some even dozing
as if bored. Only Goldberg would do.

And so I gave them each variation,
starting at dawn’s first, soft light.
The old one’s eyes pooled with tears each time

I unwound the tangled, plangent twenty-fifth,
that Black Pearl of wisdom even trees
held their leaves a little longer to hear.

Then came first frosts, clanking of steam
in heating pipes, and when snowflakes
turned our world into a shaken ball

where rabbits, the house, the naked trees
were quaint as a Christmas card,
they left with numerous progeny,

having coupled often on our golden mornings,
until one day I closed the keyboard’s lid,
came to the window still cracked open,

stared into the cleft-lipped face of the old one,
and we listened alone together to the variation
we loved, played only in our minds,

knowing, come spring, he wouldn’t be there,
the dream gone back to live in the music
which on some mornings the walking woman shared.