Will Stockton


1. Commit yourself
to learning something new—
How to Play the Piano
(for middle to upper class white boys).

2. Find a teacher who tasks you,
Michelle Pfeiffer as a dominatrix,
who knows when you don’t drill
and makes you drill
until you’re back where you started,
fumbling through “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore.”

3. Draw the circle of fifths
with a compass and protractor.
Tape this to your bathroom mirror,
where you study as you brush your teeth
the paper now wrinkled with shower steam.

4. Become obsessed.
Save up your lawnmowing money.
Buy a keyboard. At night, practice in your room.
Harbor secret fantasies about being Billy Joel.

5. Improvise with the chord progression
to “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
but fail to remove the jackhammer melody.
Shift scenes.

Imagine playing “She’s Always a Woman”
for your best friend’s girl,
which you will when your fingers learn
to move from 4 on the C to 5 on the E flat.

6. Do not play Billy Joel in public.
Develop instead an impression
to amuse your friends.
Tori Amos straddling the piano bench,
playing minor chord progressions,
and moaning the sounds of orgasm.
Do not mock Tori in private.

7. Allow a decade to pass.
Find new obsessions,
with brief interludes of reinterest in the piano.
Listen to your taskmaster of a therapist
when she tells you you’re being evasive.

8. When a cute boy asks if you play,
put right-hand 1 on G sharp, 2 on B,
3 on D sharp and 5 on F sharp.
Left-hand 1 on E and 5 on E,
when a cute boy asks you to play.
You will have forgotten what chord you’re making
or what key you’re in.
A song from the book hidden inside
your piano bench: “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”

Will Stockton teaches English at Clemson University. With D. Gilson, he is the author of Crush (Punctum Books) and Gay Boys Write Straight Porn (Sibling Rivalry Press). His poems have appeared in journals such as Assaracus, Bloom, Fourth River, PANK, and Weave Magazine. His book Brimstone is forthcoming from Queer Young Cowboys.
PoetrymarkcWill Stockton