One small child
by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

At my teacher’s second-floor studio,
I fidget on the piano stool.
I am staring at
the opening bars of
The Moonlight Sonata.

I am still waiting
to perfect this piece,
fine-tune it in time
for the Christmas concert,
feel and express it
as viscerally
as my teacher does—
each sombre note
seeming to dissolve
on her fingertips,
tell-tale tears twitching
on her waterline.

I peek outside through
a gap in the curtains
and see my father—
he is waiting in his car,
windows rolled up,
air con turned on,
patiently parked
in the shade of two acacias.

It was an hour-long drive
to get me to my lesson,
and my father naps off
his fatigue,
knees folded against
the dashboard. He and I
have been doing this
ever since I was
a toddler,
and I have often wondered
what he dreams of
during his micro sleeps
as he waits for me to finish.

While the Moonlight Sonata
lulls my mind,
something tells me
that he dreams
of Christmas Eve,
seated in the audience,
waiting to hear me play
his all-time favourite piece-
“One small child,”
like I have
every year

PAINTING: The Piano Lesson by Henri Matisse (1916).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am very fortunate to have a devoted father. He used to drive me to my piano lessons. This was usually after a long day, after he had worked two jobs. Over the years I evolved as a pianist and my father has heard me perform many pieces. But to this day he says that his favourite remains “One small child.” I like to believe that that one small child is me. My father will turn 74 this year and I wrote this poem for him.

Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an Indian-Australian artist, poet, and pianist who was raised in the Middle East. She holds a Masters in English and is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project. Her recent works have been published in Silver Birch Press, River and South Review, Bracken Magazine, Ethel zine, and several other print and online literary journals and anthologies internationally. Her poem, “Mizpah,” was awarded an Honourable Mention at the Glass House Poetry Awards 2020, and her poems on the Covid crisis were made into a podcast by The Someone New Theatre Company, Melbourne. Her mixed-media pieces have been published in over 40 literary journals, including 3AM Magazine, Star 82 Review, Otoliths, and The Amsterdam Quarterly, as well as on the covers of Ang(st) the Body Zine, Pithead Chapel, Uppagus, Periwinkle Literary, and elsewhere. She is a chief editor for Authora Australis, and regularly performs her poetry and exhibits her paintings at shows. She teaches art to young children, and lives in Sydney on the land of the Ku-ring-gai people of the Eora Nation. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.