THE NIGHT THE MUSIC DIED

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                                                                         Pett Level,Winchelsea

 

            THE NIGHT THE MUSIC DIED

 

            He lay in the box quite comfortably

            His waxen face staring into infinity

            Looking much better in death

            Than he ever had in life.

            It was all that I could do to peer

            At him through slatted fingers

            From the back of the room;

            The ever-present smell of tanning

            And leather aprons absent now;

            More than forty seeping years of it

            Scrubbed away one last time

 

            His moped – a natural progression from pedal power

            When his legs gave out –

            Lay discarded in the coal shed

            At the back of the house.

            (No driver you see, and mother still had the shopping to do)

            He dug turf, cut down young Sally trees,

            And turned over his bit of stony ground endlessly.

            In summer he clipped sheep slowly

            With a machine bought by post from Clerys,

            Carefully stowing it away in its box

            When the shearing was done.

 

            The clay pipes he sucked on – their broken stems

Held together with blood pricked from his thumb –

            Were redundant now

            And his three bottles of Sunday-night Guinness

            Would stand corked under the counter evermore.

            Who would dance half-sets with her now?

            My mother enquired of no one in particular,

            The smoky saloon bar stunned that the music had felled him

            Knocked him to the floor in the middle of the tune.

            He lay there with a smile on his face

            Knowing it was over

            And I never got to know what was on his mind.

 

            We put him in the ground

            And sadness trickled through me

            Like a handful of sand through my fingers.

            Later, everyone stood around

            Eating sparse ham sandwiches

            While I stood there, dry-eyed;

            He was a great man they all said

            Slapping the back of my overcoat;

            Sure he gave forty years to that tannery

 

            And what did it give him?

            I wanted to shout to the throng;        

            A gold watch and a tin tray

            And both had his name spelled wrong

 

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