The Friday Poem on 10/02/23
‘The Instrument’ by Andrew Neilson is our Friday Poem this week. We are intrigued by the way the poem starts with its roots in a dream then digs into childhood memories in order to explore parallels between music and poetry. There’s a story here, but it’s elusive – we get undercurrents of conflict, hints of a difficult family history and a strong sense that there’s a habit of silence passed down from one generation to another. We like its spirit of enquiry, and its dark, complex and powerful imagery.
I dreamt the body was an instrument
and lay as such, beneath a great black lid.
As I waited, subdued in that antique air,
dust gathered on the inward machinery –
the wrest pins and hammers, the tension of strings –
and somewhere something important was keyed
to a small, felt damper of thought.
Or thought unthought, nearing thought,
that is to say, in prelude to it –
bringing me back to those Tuesday evenings
dropped off in the car and pacing outside
the block where I take my music lessons.
Later, I go home and say nothing of it.
Yet in the dream, this pressure yearns to build
seeming so much larger than the smallness of thought,
or the smallness of me – a child learning scales
and slowly ascending the grades of precision.
I remember a wee tweed jaikit
intent on the stool, playing for mother
among vases, figurines, porcelain flowers…
an audience so unlike my namesake’s,
that great uncle gracing the concert halls
before his score, wronged, saw him turn to drink.
The way up here is to say nothing of it.
Perhaps it was the nothing of these things
that now made the instrument play.