Poems for Gill and Chris, from QUICKSILVER

Two poems from my collection QUICKSILVER, written for my sister Gill and her husband Chris, musicians.

Poems for Gill and Chris, from QUICKSILVER
Photo by Nadiia Ganzhyi / Unsplash

The fiddle lesson

for Gill

Because he’s a novice, he will hold it
as if it’s just a hollow piece of wood,
whereas she fondles it like a living thing,
moulding it to the angle of her neck,
its hardness yielding to the light hold of her chin.
She must warm it for him before he arrives –
so that when she hands it over to him
he can feel her touch still lingering in its curves,
her rhythm still vibrating in its strings.
‘There you go’ she’ll say, as she passes
it to him, and the lesson will begin.
It will be like lighting a match and carrying it
across darkness, hands cupped to protect
a wavering flame. Or like cradling a small
bird gently, so as not to stop its heart-beat
or crush the feathers on its folded wings.

Beautiful unwritten

for Chris

He sent me the recording of a piece
he’d written – asking me to put
words to it, make it into a song.
It was a lovely guitar piece, with his voice
humming in the background, words
half-enunciated, not competing.
It was like seeing a butterfly
stirring, quick and vivid, in molten amber,
or a sculpture half-made, a naked figure
emerging from the stone – but not quite there yet,
not fully formed, still forming…
And listening, I felt I could not write the song.
It was already beautiful unwritten,
perfectly unfinished, and moving:
the notes held together by his own voice,
the maker’s voice, understanding
and half-interpreting his meaning
by quietly humming along.

QUICKSILVER can be purchased direct from me, at 10£ per copy, plus postage and packing. Please email me at lucy.newlyn@seh.ox.ac.uk to order a copy.