The Listener

The Listener

He slipped into a nearby seat in the auditorium only

a moment before the pianist would enter

to perform a repertoire of sonatas.

My glance informed me

battered running shoes

tattered slacks

and a worn, elderly face.

First thought: a homeless man

sacrificing freedom for musical respite

escaping winter’s cold.

Silver hair fell below the nape of his neck,

blending into a grey beard.

I wondered once a musician, was he now

bereft of an instrument?

Or once a professor, now an unkempt bachelor,

retired from a requirement

to conform to decorum?

Amidst the wide-eyed student audience

the old face received the music with

lids closed. Only once I spied them open

two oceans of blue

gazing on a stilled piano between movements

until fingers stroked keys and a melody resumed

enraptured again, aged viewers closed

as if protecting his mind from distraction.

Though attentive to the performance

two rows ahead and to my peripheral

the presence of the old stranger in our midst

accompanied me.

Had he once scaled the keys as a child

tonight resurrecting experiences of bygone recitals?

or did thoughts linger on ancient pupils, now grown

beyond the reach of his instruction?

Who was this man sitting peacefully

in the next block of seats? I’ll never know.

I did not think to ask

but his impression on me goes deeper

than the perfectly executed melodies I went to hear.

and I wonder: which is the more beautiful?

Sarah Tun

Sarah Tun writes because it's the best way to stay sane: it keeps the ideas flowing and keeps the cobwebs away. First published at age 7, Sarah wrote two stories when sent out of the classroom for being naughty; the principal liked them so much she posted them in the office window. Sarah has written copious poems and novels, self-publishing one, "Confronting the Darkness", a sci fi fantasy especially for young people. Short stories have appeared in Polar Expressions and Dime Store Review, poetry at Pangolin, Soft Cartel and Ariel Chart. She's also published several non-fiction books. Originally from Canada, she is a world traveller, has lived in 5 countries, and resides now in England. Further information can be found at


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