In the damp cell in Valldemossa,

Chopin sits at the piano,

a smear of blood across his lips.

George Sand, in trousers, stands beside him,

cold cigar clinched in her teeth.

The pomegranate trees shiver in the wind.

The ceaseless rain drums the windowpane.

He is improvising as he composes,

jotting down each chord, crossing out,

jotting down again, seeking the one key

that will transform it. She is transported.

He coughs, dabs his speckled handkerchief,

blows on his hands, and starts again,

small hands splayed across the keys.

Each night she writes, cursing the foul Majorcans.

Each night he coughs himself to sleep.

But in the afternoon, in the weak light,

candles wept to stubs, each note

lingers in the air, as if drawn out

from the soundboard, as if drawn in,

like one sweet breath,

Lento, pianissimo.


Rick Rohdenburg attended the Writers’ Workshop at Brown University, then spent thirty-five years working as a systems analyst. He did not begin publishing until past sixty. His work has appeared in the Chestnut Review, Laurel Review, Raleigh Review, and others. Now retired, he lives in Duluth.

He won the AWC 2021 Natasha Trethewey Prize for Poetry for his poem, “A Winter in Majorca.”

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