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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Chopin’s Heart Is Buried Beneath a Pillar in Warsaw


by Theodosia Henney



 

When the aliens finally came, they taught us about The Universe, how time and space stretch like a muscle, rip, and re-knit. They showed us how to melt copper and pumice stone and cat hair into a material perfectly adapted for space travel and how to power our cars on a biodiesel synthesized from German chocolate and gravity. They corrected the wayward laws of a man named Murphy. They taught us things about language, about hula-hoops and metaphysics and soy ice cream and bioethics. They showed us how rhythm moves through space, through our own bodies; how our cells vibrate to the beat of a drum long after the music has stopped.


They dissected a piano, a blonde-wooded Yamaha, pinned down the strings and keys and frequencies like beetles. They told us all its secrets; laid it open down to raw atoms.


But when the aliens hear Chopin's Prelude in E Minor, Opus 28, Number 4, they are bewildered. They know our theory, know that the piece begins away from the home note and that it heaves and reaches through minor and diminished chords, like a man through a deep valley, pulling along on his belly. They know how it ends; on the tonic pitch, the home tone into which all else resolves. They know that Chopin died in Paris, gnawed away by tuberculosis.


They stare at us, tilt their heads and ask why we are crying; we can only shake our heads and dab our eyes, “we don't know.”