The Widow at the Piano
by Sue Fagalde Lick
The aging woman playing the piano at church may look saintly, but her mind is busy wondering things like what’s under the priest’s robes and why Jesus didn’t invite the women to join him. Also, when someone faints in the Communion line, should she keep playing? All the while, she is playing, singing, and directing the choir, hoping that she’s on the same verse as everyone else. The Widow at the Piano takes readers on a journey through the distracted mind of the music minister who has recently lost her husband to Alzheimer’s disease and whose only nearby family is the church family at Sacred Heart Church in Newport, Oregon. These poems look at the challenges of leading small church choirs, traditional vs. modern church music, the role of women ministers in the male-dominated Catholic Church, faith vs. practical concerns, and life behind the scenes at Mass, with an honest blend of reverence and irreverence from a writer who has always felt not quite Catholic enough.
About the Author
Having escaped the newspaper business in Silicon Valley, Sue Fagalde Lick now lives on the Oregon coast, where she writes, does the singer-songwriter thing, walks her dog, and talks to herself. Her day job—until her pastor reads this book and excommunicates her—is directing the church choir at Sacred Heart Church in Newport. This job requires her to play the piano, sing, and direct the choir at the same time, so God should forgive a few wrong notes.
A native San Josean who earned a degree in journalism so she could make a living, she earned her MFA in creative writing at Antioch University at the age of 51. Sue has published her poetry and prose in various literary journals and come in second in more contests than she can count. Her previous books of prose include Stories Grandma Never Told: Portuguese Women in California, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Last year, she published her first poetry chapbook, Gravel Road Ahead, which tells the story of her journey with her late husband Fred through Alzheimer’s disease. She blogs at www.childlessbymarriage.com and www.unleashedinoregon.com. Visit her website at www.suelick.com.
This beautiful, searching collection brims with charm and honesty, with humor and heartache and heart. I’d listen to any song The Widow at the Piano wants to play.
~ Gayle Brandeis, author of Many Restless Concerns
and The Selfless Bliss of the Body
There is both genuine faith and wrestling with faith in this book. The vivid description of the interior of a formal Catholic church, the homeliness of its details and the description of the interaction with the other congregants shows that for Sue Lick the church is a home and family, a home which allows her to open and practice her most devotional channel, music. And the music can lead to the feeling of God flowing through her hands.
~ Barbara LaMorticella, co-editor of Portland Lights
host of Talking Earth poetry show (KBOO FM)
The Widow at the Piano had me at the lines, “If Jesus Came To My Door/I’d say Excuse the mess/and He would.” This is a book of poetry formed with multitudes of just the right touch. A touch of humor, a touch of grief. A touch of bawdy, a touch of intimate. A touch of religious, a touch of reverent. Put all of these together and you get one wonderful and satisfying read.
~ Kathie Giorgio, author of If You Tame Me
“Lead us not into temptation,” goes the prayer, but the mind does what it does, despite the church pianist’s attempts to rein hers in. Sassy, yearning, and bittersweet, Sue Fagalde Lick’s oh-so-human conversations with God and with herself—part prayer, part challenge, part confession–offer a refreshing new take on the theme of the spiritual quest, in which the pilgrim could be any one of us whose minds struggle to hear the voice of God, with nothing “in between.”
~ Ingrid Wendt, Oregon Book Award recipient, author of Evensong
In The Widow at the Piano, Sue Fagalde Lick sits the reader not just in the front pew but on the bench of the organist/choir director, which is even farther forward, to examine her own faith and humanity. Reminiscent of Jan Karon’s Mitford Series, this collection of poetry highlights the goodness and foibles of a committed woman of faith with humor and steadfastness; no matter her difficulties or perceived shortcomings, she is always in the house of worship–this is a comfort.
~ Rachel Barton, Editor, Willawaw Journal
In many of the poems in The Widow at the Piano, Sue Fagalde Lick places her narrator in church—whether at the piano, directing a choir, joining a bereavement group, making a cup of tea in the church hall, or getting splashed by an unexpectedly exuberant shower of holy water—where the easily distracted speaker prays to (or argues with) God as she tackles grief, loneliness, and questions of faith. But the key word here is “distracted.” Too many other things are going on. Her dog has to pee, her pantyhose are migrating, and Jesus might be trying to sell her a vacuum cleaner. Lick’s strength as a poet comes from her courageous honesty and her ability to go from raw emotion to the perfect funny detail on a dime. She will make you laugh. Read this book.
~ ~Nancy Vieira Couto, poetry editor of Epoch
author of The Face in the Water and Carlisle & the Common Accident,
recipient of two NEA fellowships and Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize (1989)
“God do you see me?” so begins Sue Fagalde Lick’s poetry collection, The Widow at the Piano. Her personal narrative takes place from her perspective as pianist and choir director at Sacred Heart Church where she reflects on life, God, and the Catholic church. We feel her loss as a new widow in poems like “The Widow’s Dinner.” “I sit alone.” Jesus is always nearby, and the poet’s wit humanizes her religion as in her poem “If Jesus Came to My Door.” “I’d say, Excuse the mess.” Finding the funnier sides of things can reduce grief, and the humor in this collection is well placed.
~ Lara Gularte, author of Kissing the Bee