The Fiddle



Words are trip-wires, their sudden consonants

tease, bring shame. Fingers fumble too,

trying to write or draw with left hand tied.


Trapped music sings in his head. At last

he begs piano lessons. Fingers, stretched,

find tunes by pressing tacky ivory.


But not for long. Cash goes on uniforms.

not for him, kept home to wash and press,

while others go to grammar school.


His first job, farm labourer, pays turnips, spuds.

Not till trainee grocer can he earn enough

to buy a violin, and cradle it, and stroke its wood.


Unlatching the back gate one day, he finds

kid brother scoring goals, the violin

a tangle of strings booted up the yard.