Contrapuntal by J.A. Pak

Playing Mozart’s sonata in F major & find myself at the third movement, which is a movement I’ve never liked and rarely play.

I rarely play an entire sonata & in a mood of F major, I decided I must finish the sonata.

It’s as I’d expected, and why I play it slowly [in a purl I’m pulled inside an incredible, moving melodic line & I wonder why this is a place I’ve never been].

Of course it’s technique, my improvement, but also a state of existence & a growing convergence toward Mozart (pain, unending disappointment with world & self, heart splintering away a life of countless divisions).

Erratic maturation.


I clench my jaw at night like a bad actor. Also during the day.

As I age there is no difference, night and day Petri dish of low-grade anxiety, a clench prep for those little assault that cleanse the inside out of a perfect day.


I once had afternoon tea alone at the Savoy Hotel in London (I’d been stood up).

The young European waiter was profoundly sad for me (I wasn’t the only woman alone in the room).

I suppose it was because I didn’t have a book (I almost never have a book).

A book would have been a shame, the lovely room (glass-domed foyer, piano music, women gathered in floral hats to celebrate an occasion) was a book.

The waiter did his best to cheer me up (hot scones as soon as they were ready) and I thought how odd, his firm belief that I was sad when I was happy because I’d always wanted to have afternoon tea at the Savoy and it was even more Gilbert & Sullivan than I’d expected and really I was sad because I didn’t have a chic hat of flowers & whimsy.

The scones were the best I’ve ever had (there were tea sandwiches & cakes too) and I think about this listening to Bach’s Partita No 6, the imagined sorrow of the young waiter far from home contraflowing against happiness, the gentleness of youthful compassion, tea alone, Bach alone, church & God, alone, the soul, alone, flowing against with, unheard, breaking through solitude, alone—

A recipient of a Glass Woman Prize, J.A. Pak’s work has been published in a variety of publications, including Olentangy Review, Luna Luna, Thrice Fiction, Atticus Review, Quarterly West, The Smoking Poet and Art/Life.