Stride Magazine - www.stridemagazine.co.uk

 

SYMPHONY NO. 1


I: Spring without End

An old-fashioned steam engine’s rolling down the street;

it is not yet dawn; the air is stale as urine; he gazes
through the thin curtain, threadbare but densely woven,
hanging from the sky like a pale grey cloud layer.

The birds are singing. He plucks a leaf, absentmindedly
tearing it apart, whistling the beginning of a hymn.
The pale shell of the moon! The blossom! The chrysanthemums!

An old-fashioned steam engine’s moving down the street.

My father left me alone in the woods, telling me not to move
till he returned: but he was delayed for hours,
and I was still sitting there, lost in a day-dream.

His sleep is a novel from which he does not want to wake,
­ what is that noise?

He leaps out of bed and tears the curtain aside ­ but
the chrysanthemums! the blossom! the pale shell of the moon!
How can anyone in their right mind stay inside on a day like this?!



II: Full Sail

It takes great skill, and much practice,
to be able to balance a cup of tea
in a teacup while running up a flight of stairs.

His front teeth clink on the rim,
a sip: he blows across the surface
like wind across a pond.

His big toe bends
on the top step of a steep flight of stairs.



III: Shipwrecked

In the dentist’s waiting room, a battered, half-broken, wind-up toy plays Frére Jacques
, very slowly, like a limping hare, followed by a cat, a toad, and a frog. Tonight’s menu offers venison, fox, and Riesling grape. As if played on a steel-strung harp. The colours of the leaves are beautiful as the modulating colours of a bruise, and the shadow of the yellow tree is yellow. As unexpected as the arrival of the sunset you‚ve been waiting for, you find your glass is filled with burgundy. Is the whole world just one gigantic pot pourri? At least you’ll never be dead ­ at the final stroke, all verbs are declared superfluous. There’s no avoiding dying, but death is just a noun, and hardly ever proper. “By now he has already found a hair in the soup and it has spoiled his appetite.” An elderly jazz quintet recites popular classics to an ageing audience: umbrellas won’t help them now! The disappointment of lime-scale, silting the bottom of a perfect cup of tea. The one black hair on my shoulder... a bare tree on the horizon... a gallows tree.



IV: The Boy with the Knife in his Heart

Why won’t she just leave me alone?
I can’t believe I was ever with her.
If only she would die like Mimi!

The toes uncramp slowly like heartache, or a flower.

She rests her head on the thin windowsill of the bus;
he’s so used to heartache, it’s almost a pleasure:
look ­ how she rests her head.

Is it true, as Schopenhauer says, that
I willed this life before I was conceived?
Why do I fancy I am free, when my character
constricts me like a prison?

The vibration of the bus passes through his lips,
his cheeks, his jaw, his eyes, his scalp,
to a tremor in his knees... he gazes
through the thin curtain, threadbare but densely woven;
his right eyelid twinges, as if a starling has taken nest.

He can feel paranoia jumping all over his body,
­ what is
that noise?

He leaps out of bed and tears the curtain aside ­
how can anyone stay inside on a day like this?!

Beethoven bursts out laughing

(“Who’s that outside there that knocks at my door?”)

Beethoven bursts out laughing
Beethoven bursts out laughing uproariously
Beethoven bursts out laughing uproariously,

and then runs away.


                  © Paul Rowland 2003