States of Poetry Series Three - ACT | 'The violin' by Paul Munden

The violin

perched, slack-strung,
on the dark wooden sideboard
of your Palermitan apartment
opposite the cathedral,
a gift you didn’t yet know
how to tune, let alone play.

Your guests ignored it,
heading straight for the plates
of cheese, olives, bread,
and wine in plastic flagons
from the market, music
flowing from an amplified phone.

Smokers braved the narrow
stone balcony high above
the lines of traffic crawling
between Porta Nuova
and the sea, chains of lights
sparkling in the dusk.

Pigeons on the clocktower
became gargoyle silhouettes.
The occasional miniature
dog was lowered in a basket
from a creaking pulley
to the pavement for relief.

I wondered what else
I had failed to teach you,
and what that mattered,
watching you thread
the multilingual party
with such intuitive skill

while I, tongue-tied, retreated
to a corner with the poor violin,
turning its stiff pegs
until the levelled strings
could be at ease
with their silence.

Paul Munden