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What it’s Like by Rasha Abdulhadi

You sit down on a piano bench next to someone who is or is not ready to play, and you begin to make music—hesitantly at first, and then with greater fervor depending on whether you’re someone who can love unilaterally, or if the other party gives some sign of joining in for a duet—that collaboration may increase your interest in playing. If you can’t love unilaterally and the other person doesn’t join in: You might stop playing, or cry, or question the value of music altogether. It’s ok, you’ll get past this stage. In one variation, you may find your unilateral love turning into obsession, as when you pack a tiny tintoy piano on a Radio Flyer wagon and haul it around, playing the same fragment of melody that is waiting for its completion. Or perhaps you’ve elaborated the melody, let it grow wild and untamed, swollen until it holds dominion over all of music and has, therefore, effectively left no room for anyone else to compose anything ever. Sometimes it’s like that, too, but as a strategy it doesn’t work so well. You’ll be lucky if the other person is a musician—it’s not always the case, don’t laugh! Perhaps there wasn’t a piano in her childhood home, or else maybe he skipped his lessons, pocketed the money, and spent it on hamburgers and prizes. You never know. It has happened before. It could also happen that this other person is a musician, but does not play piano, in which case you should let them off the bench so they can go get their guitar, flugelhorn, oboe, or mouth harp. A hidden musician may sometimes emerge, turning two soup spoons or the slap of hand against thigh into a conversation of sound. What I’m saying is that you may have to look sideways when you find yourself unable to go forward.


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A painted portrait in which a genderqueer Palestinian person with long wavy black hair that has a pale streak in front is staring directly at the viewer from against a fiery orange background. They are wearing black lipstick, large horn-rimmed glasses, and a grey and black rippled scarf. A turquoise stud earring is visible on their left ear.

Rasha Abdulhadi is a queer Palestinian Southerner disabled by Long Covid. Their recent chapbook is who is owed springtime (Neon Hemlock, 2021). Their writing appears online and in print and is anthologized in Mid/South Sonnets, Essential Voices: A COVID-19 AnthologySnaring New Suns, Unfettered Hexes, and Halal if You Hear Me.

Image credit JJ Dumont (2020)

What it’s Like by Rasha Abdulhadi | Trust the process by Kathryn Aldridge-Morris | All the Grandmother Figures by Michelle Christophorou | Don Your Wings by Avital Gad-Cykman | Uncle Soul by Andrea Jurjević | The Unborn Babies Slide into My DM’s  by Joe Kapitan | My Baby by Pamela Painter