Poetry: 'There Was A Boy Who Had A Dream'
by Chris Thumwood
There was a boy who had a dream
to one day play the violin
and he would practise night and day
though he had no violin to play
Instead of bow he had a stick
and a tennis racket from a skip
which he would tune with crooked nails
his tutor a book of piano scales
The boy grew up, became a man
forgetting all his childhood plans
of being concert master on the stage
dreams brushed aside by work and wage
The man woke up, and he was old
with silvered hair and creaking bones
lamenting all those wasted years
his pillow soaked with bitter tears.
He travelled to a coastal town
to find the shore and there, to drown
but before the sea he spied a shop
with one single violin in stock
He paused, went in, just to enquire
“Was it available to hire?”
“To hire no, but if you are willing
its price is only 13 shillings...”
He checked the pockets of his coat
wherein he found a crumpled note
and in his trousers, both front and back
a few odd coins and a bottle cap
A length of string, some bits of fluff
all tallied up it was just enough
he left the shop, and not to die
but to give his violin one try.
He plucks a string with shaking fingers
a note is born, it sings and lingers.
A world is born behind his eyes,
he whispers once “I am alive”
Nevermore would this old man speak
save through strings which squeal and squeak
-at least at first- they wept and wailed
till from the discord one pure note sailed
Then a second and then one more,
A dozen followed, each dragged a score.
Every note a weight removed
a life unlived has been renewed.
The Do, Re, Mi’s he first unveils
light his way through basic scales
to children’s rhymes and ‘My first song’s’
in not half a blink, but twice as long
and He discovers Aria’s...
Haunting airs once born on heather
become his melancholic pleasure
such his feeling, such his pain
they rend the sky and it bleeds rain.
This rain was not the tears of gods
but the unheard grief of unloved sods
that never thought to find release
the very tune he played was peace.
Days gave to way to nights then mornings
til’ fingers found such sadness boring.
This pace, this pace is far too slow
he coaxed more speed from fret and bow.
Through jigs and reels his fingers fumbled
through sweat and blood and time he stumbled.
Until he mastered gypsies passions
wild Russian dances, Celtic fashions.
And unto him like flame draws moth
people came to hear and watch.
Dancing stole on solemn souls
thieved young, infirm and very old.
They danced beneath the moon and sun
enraptured by the song he spun
wore out the soles upon their shoes
their eyes shut tight, his sound their muse
And not just men, his tunes called beasts
from mightiest to the very least,
things with wings and things with claws
hoofed, and feathered, toed and pawed
They spun and whirled, no break or pause
for seven days till once more bored
the old man changed his style of play
freed from his spell they drift away.
Shaking music from ears and heads
the final webs of tunes now dead
already they try to disbelieve.
What really was, declared a dream.
His audience gone but still he plays
through Seasons, months and weeks and days
Moons and suns and dusks and dawns
pass unnoticed as the song goes on.
His fingers seek out secret things
the songs that hide between the strings
and guided by his wrinkled hands
his violin sings like sea on sand
he learns to play the flight of birds
the growth of trees, unwhispered words
plays tunes that bind the sky to earth
the songs of death and life and birth
His beard grows long and trails the road,
Some mice move in, their new abode
The beard is soft and warm and deep
he plays soft lullabies to help them sleep
Upon one day more wet than dry
a boy and his bear come traipsing by
He’s made a hat from folded paper
a gift for the wondrous music maker.
That boy who built the paper crown
returned year on year to that coastal town
and every time he comes back older
from knee, to waist from waist to shoulder.
The boy comes back and he is old
with silvered hair and creaking bones
and then one year he doesn’t come
but the man still stands and plays his song.
Chris Thumwood is a Bristol-based poet.