Arabesque No.1, by Debussy,
stops me in my tracks, with its beauty;
stills me with its simplicity,
softens me with its fragility,
infects me with its poignancy.
And every time it does it to me,
my mother comes alive in my memory.
My mother, who played piano proficiently,
in spite of lack of opportunity.
Who became a dutiful housewife,
and devoted domestic slave, to her family.
Who spent her days toiling in the kitchen,
while we were dozing, or watching TV.
My mother, who sold her piano,
and never forgave herself for doing so.
Who loved flowers, and gardens, and trees.
Who loved Chopin, and paintings, and poetry.
My mother, who would have loved
Arabesque No.1, by Debussy.
The inspiration for this poem is simple enough to explain. I listen to classical music most mornings, on BBC Radio3, and every time I hear a solo piano piece by Chopin, Debussy, Brahms, Schumann, or Grieg, memories of my mother automatically come into my mind. Chopin was her particular favourite, and I don’t think she’d heard that much by Debussy; but I feel sure she would have loved his Arabesque Number One.