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What Happened To Selfishness

Grace Q. Song

Great Neck, NY

Great Neck South High School


for grandpa


& at last  when all my

ten eleven twelve-year-old selves grew up

ripened & died

clair de lune came whispering

the secrets of how to serenade

what a quiet  still heart could do

moonlight came

enchanting the days i had

shoved behind me & locked away



you loved that black & white music box

but i didn't

i looked at your pruned hands

weary with nights of dishwashing

how they spelled out each arpeggio &

i thought

how could you possibly play anything beautiful?



i know i was a selfish girl

you taught me how to save myself in water

sprint down a ski slope & understand my

ancestors’ brushstrokes  forming characters i

never quite cared

but you stole my sunshine afternoons meant for play so

i tore your lesson books in return

what was there to lose when  all along

i had been forced to learn?



we fought over my

holiday breaks

you won  as always

we spent christmas in the

bone-seeping cold of vermont

as i sat in front of the

blazing fireplace  wet & hungry



tired & raw

i reached deep inside of myself &

choked out the fruit of our years

underneath the same roof:

we would always be too cold, too bitter to

allow anything warm

& kind to grow—

what good came from two different hands

trying to play a duet on an

out-of-tune piano?  the answer was


but as seasons left & returned

we aged along with the earth

we let the land

fold upon itself   sleep

there  at the corner of the living room

the piano rested  waited

& years later

when a clear, soft french tune asked for

permission to enter at the gates of my ears

what else could i do besides

watch as it left my ungrateful ten eleven

twelve-year-old selves sprawled all over

in my heart?



the truth was

printed in chinese paragraphs

howled among frozen mountains

wrestled in water  embellished

in ink-stained music

hidden underneath barren fields



love did exist

it did it did it did

it did.


I do not cry over literature, but this piece—in the middle of physics class. The last stanza especially got me, with the culmination of every line in those simple words. The raw emotion, the beautifully illustrated backstory, the symbolism of the piano and the metaphor of music—all of it was so well done.


Grace Q. Song is a sophomore from Great Neck South High School, New York, and she will be graduating in 2021. When she's not writing poetry or YA novels, you can find her staging photo shoots or playing the flute. She thinks you're awesome.

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