(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)