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caferati
A collaboration over too much coffee.
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21 March, 2005

Reprieve

A word or two about this poem. No one chances upon Cremona violins in junk shops; I didn’t either. The only person known to have done so was Sherlock Holmes, who picked up his Stradivarius in a shop in Tottenham Court Road for the princely sum of fifty-five shillings. The other inspiration for the poem is a Stradivarius supposedly in the possession of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford: it is said to be so pure and perfect in quality that it is called The Messiah (my source for this story is Jan Morris’ book on Oxford).

The poem is allegorical.



It’s the usual shop for odds and ends,
the impedimenta of people’s lives:
pots and pans, carved bookends,
a case of curious kitchen knives.

I pick my way through the bric a brac
to some musty tomes tied with hemp,
as the rheumy owner swats a rag
to flick the dust off them.

A casual glance suffices for me:
nascent hope gutters and dies.
There’s nothing there to interest me,
no long-sought gem to rhapsodise.

I give the place one last sweep
before I turn my back on it,
vaguely disquieted by this rubbish heap
on which dereliction’s so starkly writ.

Thus almost missing the thing – uncased,
forlornly stood against the door
like an errant schoolboy disgraced
for some minor misdemeanour.

Mute prey to dust and mould
(the strings have somehow held their own)
I’m still surprised it lies unsold,
for someone or other should have known…

Through the ear-holes in the waning light
an ancient label squints at me,
its print all but faded white:
a date, and the name Antonio Stradivari.

***

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7 Comments:

Blogger Arundhati said...

Beautiful, soft and lyrical. Sounds like a ballad. The gentle ness of thought translates to the softness of the words.

22 March, 2005 11:32  
Blogger khuto said...

For some time now, dear speckled band, I have been meaning to comment on your poems - I must say, you are possibly the best lyricist going in Caferati. And I like your choice of themes - the beggar who finally went off in the auto was especially superb. The only lamentable aspect is that you too had to have a bong connection!

This one reads very well - I would have thought that a title like bargain would have been nice also. the first stanza draws one in (as do most of your starts). In terms of the rhythm - a couple of points jar a bit - "no long-sought gem to rhapsodise." seems a bit awkward, perhaps we can have:

A casual glance suffices for me:
nascent hope gutters and dies.
There's nothing here to interest me,
no gem on which I can rhapsodize

Also there is something that makes one pause at the line "Thus almost missing the thing – uncased / forlornly stood against the door" Perhaps something like this?

Thus almost missing the thing -- uncased:
forlorn it stands against the door
like an errant schoolboy disgraced
for some minor misdemeanour.

"misdemanour" is terrific - I don't know how you do these rhymes - sometimes it is like sweating blood for me... Anyhow, glad to have you here on Caferati ... and keep the good stuff coming...

BYE

22 March, 2005 20:59  
Blogger SPECKLED_BAND said...

Khuto, thank you for your observations: 'no long-sought gem to rhapsodise' fits well in the scansion, and if it had jarred, believe me I wouldn't have allowed it to see the light of day!:)

In the second instance, the slight break is deliberate, to signify the purposeful stride (of the narrator walking out of the shop) being arrested by the sight of the violin. The rhythm picks up again on the last word of that line.

Asha kori bujhate perechhi! And why 'lamentable aspect' my friend? Aamaar to bhaloi laage!

And thank you once again!:)

23 March, 2005 01:05  
Blogger Quizman said...

Very nice poem. Loved it.

I admired the way you contrasted your sharp focus on the object of desire, "Thus almost missing the thing – uncased, forlornly stood against the door" with the dismissive glance at others that weren't so important "I pick my way through the bric a brac."

Btw, why "curious kitchen knives"?

Btw, I prefer "no long-sought gem to rhapsodise". To me, it appeared that this visit was one of many unsuccessful hunts for (perhaps) a long sought book (tome). Hence, long-sought. The frustration of another fruitless visit seems apt since you follow up with scorn: "vaguely disquieted by this rubbish heap on which dereliction’s so starkly writ."

The only nit I have is that the tenses vary. From the present, "I give the place one last sweep" to the past, "Thus almost missing the thing – uncased, forlornly stood against the door". Would "stands against the door" be more appropriate? Just a thought.

23 March, 2005 05:59  
Blogger SPECKLED_BAND said...

Quizman, the 'stood' is used to mean 'made to stand', as in 'he was stood on the bench for throwing chalk', not as the past tense of 'stand'.

By the way, pleasure running into you here! Do we see you in Bangalore soon?

23 March, 2005 07:29  
Blogger Quizman said...

SB,

My error - re the use of 'stands'.

Hmm..now you've aroused my curiosity. By what name do I know you? ;-)

23 March, 2005 12:53  
Blogger WillOTheWisp said...

I have not been one for much of poetry, except for a few readings of Paz. This caught my attention and I allowed it to descend, verse by verse.
Rather nice.

01 April, 2005 12:33  

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