The Accompanist

By Dick Allen b. 1939 Dick Allen
I’ve always worried about you—the man or woman   
at the piano bench,   
night after night receiving only such applause   
as the singer allows: a warm hand please,   
for my accompanist.   At concerts,   
as I watch your fingers on the keys,   
and how swiftly, how excellently   
you turn sheet music pages,   
track the singer’s notes, cover the singer’s flaws,   
I worry about whole lifetimes,   
most lifetimes   
lived in the shadows of reflected fame;   
but then the singer’s voice dies   
and there are just your last piano notes,   
not resentful at all,   
carrying us to the end, into those heartfelt cheers   
that spring up in little patches from a thrilled audience   
like sudden wildflowers bobbing in a rain   
of steady clapping.   And I’m on my feet, also,   
clapping and cheering for the singer, yes,   
but, I think, partially likewise for you   
half-turned toward us, balanced on your black bench,   
modest, utterly well-rehearsed,   
still playing the part you’ve made yours.

Poem copyright © 2007 by Dick Allen, whose most recent book of poetry is “Present Vanishing,” Sarabande Books, 2008. Poem reprinted from “North Dakota Quarterly,” Vol. 74, no. 3, Summer 2007, by permission of Dick Allen.

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Poet Dick Allen b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Music

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Dick  Allen


Dick Allen grew up near the Adirondack Mountains in Round Lake, New York. He received his BA from Syracuse University and his MA from Brown University. His numerous poetry collections include Present Vanishing: Poems (2008) and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected (1997).

Allen is one of the founders of Expansive poetry, a movement that started in the 1980s and includes New Formalism and New Narrative. As Allen writes in . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Music

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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