Punk with Dulcimer

He stood at the end of the carriage.
A black-clad giant, fearsome
in fringed and studded leather, tawny mohican.
Then sat down in the seat beside me.

Plants are amazing, so they are!
The voice, rich Ulster. He looks up from his book,
eyes shining under the tawny crown.
—If it weren’t for plants,
if it weren’t for vascular bundles,
we’d not be walking upright.

He speaks in a creaking of leather,
a sound like branches in a pine-wood,
rubbing. And a multitude of studs,
from his ears to his bare, braceleted arms
and eloquent knuckle-dustered mittens,
sparkle and gleam like rain on thistles.

He is a green man speaking leaves.
Rainforest canopy fills the carriage
with rustled whispers; words
that make Linnaean music, space
for colobus, catleya, bell-bird
to peep from the fringes of speech.

For an hour he held sway, in language
as way above my head as, say, a sequoia.
Elusive as jaguar, and all gone.
All but those resonant, homely
vascular bundles. Oh, and the dulcimer.
He played a dulcimer in a folk-group,
was going, in fact, to play it in Newcastle
where he duly got off the train.

I think of how I had feared him,
of how we fear what we don’t know.
And when I hear the whistles and drums
of marching Orangemen on the news,
I try to imagine the tune arranged for dulcimer
—hearing soft-struck strings;
seeing a black-clad figure,
tall as a cedar of Lebanon, and dancing.
Like David with his psaltery
before the Lord.

from Punk with Dulcimer (Peterloo Poets, 2006), ? Anna Crowe 2006, used by permission of the author

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