Michael H. Levin: Poems and Prose
(Anna Burstein Bieler, Pianist, 1908-2003)
1. Ernst (1926)
When I first came to Leipzig,
just eighteen, he shared
a house I played at for my
weekly meal. He had a sweet violin
when we danced easily
through Mozart chamber parts.
His scar from service at the Front
would glisten as he looked at me.
First love’s a rush where everything
contracts to hands and eyes. I’m still
amazed I locked my door.
In four years I convinced myself
that I was over him.
2. The Conservatory (1926 -1929)
They came from Russia, Queensland,
South America -- the prodigies
and floods of acolytes.
My master class
was something terrible in all
respects: to play a new piece
every week, with all that
competition looking on.
The first three months
I overworked my right.
The next three months
that arm was in a sling.
I practiced with my left,
so awkwardly. But learned
it's the foundation for the rest.
3. Johanna-Park (1935)
With my first-born we lived
Our neighbor had
a son that age. Lotte
was full of life. Her organ-playing
brother left for Paris by this time.
We’d push our strollers to the Park
and let the kinder romp.
I walked that Park four decades on
and still could hear her voice.
4. Halina (1934 - 1999)
She was a wild girl, that one.
To her no normal rules applied.
They had a marriage open
as her creed. I ask no questions
or does he, she said. Why cast
a stone that hits you in the mouth?
She wrestled me to play those
two-piano concerts for the
Culture Bund. I didn’t want
my name so high on Aryan lists.
You’d disrespect Johannes Brahms
from fear? she hissed --
that’s what they want. Reviewers
said I stole the show.
Through exiles and returns and
all the detours of survival
by design and guile and all the
losses of the War and post-War years
we’re still each other’s witnesses,
2019 Mizmor Anthology (Poetica Publishing, December 2019)