top of page


(Anna Burstein Bieler, Pianist, 1908-2003)

1. Ernst (1926)

When I first came to Leipzig,

just eighteen, he shared

a house I played at for my

weekly meal. He had a sweet violin

when we danced easily

through Mozart chamber parts.

His scar from service at the Front

would glisten as he looked at me.

First love’s a rush where everything

contracts to hands and eyes. I’m still

amazed I locked my door.

In four years I convinced myself

that I was over him.

2. The Conservatory (1926 -1929)

They came from Russia, Queensland,

South America -- the prodigies

and floods of acolytes.

My master class

was something terrible in all

respects: to play a new piece

every week, with all that

competition looking on.

The first three months

I overworked my right.

The next three months

that arm was in a sling.

I practiced with my left,

so awkwardly. But learned

it's the foundation for the rest.

3. Johanna-Park (1935)

With my first-born we lived

on König-Johann-Strasse.

Our neighbor had

a son that age. Lotte

was full of life. Her organ-playing

brother left for Paris by this time.

We’d push our strollers to the Park

and let the kinder romp.

I walked that Park four decades on

and still could hear her voice.

4. Halina (1934 - 1999)

She was a wild girl, that one.

To her no normal rules applied.

They had a marriage open

as her creed. I ask no questions

or does he, she said. Why cast

a stone that hits you in the mouth?

She wrestled me to play those

two-piano concerts for the

Culture Bund. I didn’t want

my name so high on Aryan lists.

You’d disrespect Johannes Brahms

from fear? she hissed --

that’s what they want. Reviewers

said I stole the show.

Through exiles and returns and

all the detours of survival

by design and guile and all the

losses of the War and post-War years

we’re still each other’s witnesses,

still friends.

2019 Mizmor Anthology (Poetica Publishing, December 2019)

bottom of page