David Mitchell

old song

old song

upstairs
the guests are rising
from the long table . . .

voices drift
as if across the years

there comes
the scraping of the chairs
the brittle whisper
of the wineglasses
the muted shriek
of a child; the mild
roar
of an old man
&    laughter
       laughter

like iced water
in a stone jar . . .

the host shrugs
& turns up the eye
as if to say
( with a sigh )

‘ they are as they are ’

voices drift
for an instant
along the staves
of afternoon
lightly
lightly

all in the gathering blue

. . .  its a snatch of old song
                  comes drifting through . . .

myth has it
the old lady woke at 4 p.m.
‘ is it the revolution ? ’
she wanted to know . . .
( ‘ soon / madam / soon
  it wont be long ’ )

the maid served pernod.

upstairs
the guests are rising
from the long table . . .

clarinet, fiddle
soprano

bassoon . . .

‘ come nellie / come
            hannah
  come sasha
  come june

a little piece for the visit
& the rising of the moon ! ’

outside
in the geometric shade
beneath the bare vine of winter

the apprenticed lute
he
sits alone

honing the blade
honing the blade

all in the gathering blue

. . . its a snatch of old song
                  comes drifting through . . .

myth has it
the old man woke at 6 p.m.
‘ what news / what news
  from the coast ? ’

( soon / master / soon
  . . .  it wont be long )

they gathered round
they drank a toast

‘ here’s to you / &
  here’s to you / &

              here’s to you ! ’

upstairs
the guests are seated
at the long table . . .

soon

they rise again

there comes
the scraping of the stairs
the small voices of the glass
& the gentle mirth
of the girls
& the players
& the children
& the old men

&   laughter
      laughter

‘ for all its worth ’

above the scent of the rain
beneath a sickle moon
all in
                    the gathering blue
ah . . . its a snatch of old song
           comes drifting through . . .

now
the lamps are lit

its
growing late

& dark

now
the horseman’s at the gate

&
the prussian hound

he
hugs the earth

he
does not bark

he

makes

no


sound . . .

Author’s Note

Sources

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