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Adagio Sostenuto

(in music, a tempo meaning 'slow and sustained')


Adagio Sostenuto – tempo for the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, a piece I remember playing in my early teens before I abandoned piano lessons. My fingers caressed the keys, the sensual rhythm of the notes rolling up my wrists into my arms, shimmering with a fantasy of moonlight on the water, cool sand on my feet, and someone special holding me on some shore.

Decades older now, I live by the sea, sift sand through my fingers and lower my hands into the rippling surf, searching for the perfect shell that shows itself briefly before going under the next wave.

Now my hands play you, paced to your sleeping breath, lingering on the contours of your face, your smooth torso and limbs. And your hands skim my flesh, delicately tracing the shell-like curves of my ears, the slopes of my breasts. Adagio Sostenuto, a tempo for our summer afternoons.

in the old garden
the sundial's shadow still

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Penny Harter, A Hundred Gourds, 1:1 December 2011.


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