You’re home from music
school, arm marked
like a yardstick,
hand a Parcheesi board
of cigarette scars.
You reach
for a bowl, stretch on the couch,
expose empty staffs etched
on a thigh, mute score
in fine scab.

The therapist
assures of no immediate risk.
The cuts are practiced,
but not practice for
a swan song.

Still, I check your wrists
and ankles as you sleep, resist
the panic, convince
myself it’s all no deeper
than a cat’s scratch.

But you’ll rehearse
again without an audience
a carefully measured dissonance –
for every blues-worn
note, a sharp.

Joseph Landi is a medical writer who lives in the Philadelphia area. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, North American Review, South Carolina Review, Southern Poetry Review, Sugar House Review and elsewhere.

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