The Finishing Touch

K.T. Billey

I came to your cabaret because I love to watch you
play. To stare until you look for me and smile

in the other direction as you sing about feelin’ good,
your hands rippling sideways, impressing your
ever-present ladies, some gentlemen, and me.

But I’m not under your spell, I’m under your piano        
and there’s a condom in your pocket, socked    

feet on brass pedals, a little moist, a little more
comfortable—tiny liberties already so taken 
with this audience, yet you are somehow reduced 

to the sweat on your hairline, the pearling tonic 
and yellow lime you ask for twice, when

you want to stay sober. When you suppose 
it’s show time. I don’t suppose much, that’s why
I’m the lacquer on the leg scrolls, slipping

up this body leech-like, looking for the place 
the pumping goes. Fingering hammers and strings, 

I need to see how we reflect in the gleaming lid 
of grandeur. I want to fray metal wires with a nail file 
because you wouldn’t help me learn. No need 

to be nervous, now, I’m thumbing the ivory 
and cupping chords, tapping clinically on every knee

because somewhere in this contraption, real contact 
is happening, and I’ll circulate until I can count it. 
As long as this song chases me, I’m laying groundwork, 

laying traps, lying on top of you and lying 
on your piano, which is worse. I emerge semi-satisfied 

as always, to find you all over It’s a Wonderful World,
pounding hard. Not a slow, soft trickle, not at all
like it was meant to be played—a gold panner 

getting rough with his sifter, a peasant beating
dirt out of carpet. I know it makes you crazy

I don’t care about prospects, but I sure do
appreciate flowers, and if you insist on such things
being complicated, I’ll offer my applause 

to the waiter singing
        the bright blessed day
        the dark sacred night.

And in our encore, I’ll put my guilty grape juice
in a glass just cold enough to keep you on ice

another half hour, the time it’ll take me to leave 
a perfect circle on your black surface. A golden let’s-last-

forever ring that recalls your fondest memories, and ruins 
your finest instrument. Or at least its finish.