Paul Henry was born in Aberystwyth. Originally a songwriter, he freelances as a creative writing tutor and radio presenter. He is the author of six poetry collections and his work has been widely anthologized. The Black Guitar is published in India by Dronequill Publishers
The Black Guitar
Clearing out ten years from a wardrobe
I opened its lid and saw Joe
written twice in its dust, in a child’s hand,
then a squiggled seagull or two.
a man’s tears are worth nothing,
but a child’s name in the dust, or in the sand
of a darkening beach, that’s a life’s work.
I touched two strings, to hear how much
two lives can slip out of tune
then I left it,
brought down the night on it, for fear, Joe
of hearing your unbroken voice, or the sea
if I played it.
She’s fine white yacht
a cool airy distance away.
Make space for her, make space.
Make space and you will notice
she’s drifting nearer the shore.
Make space, make space.
You have waited long enough
for this love to harbour.
The roadside leaves leapt out
as if to flag me down.
I stopped for some razor-blades.
The shop assistant asked
Are you Ingrid’s husband?
No. But afterwards,
all the dwindling miles,
I wondered what she was like,
Ingrid, what soap she used,
if her hair was the colour
of these crazy leaves
and if she was mad or sane
or some shade in between.
Perhaps if we met
I’d grow to love her name.
I have seen leaves migrate
to parallel lives –
blown through an underpass
from the eastern side
of a motorway to the west.
Perhaps I should have answered Yes.
Others want this house and soon
we must either leave or stay.
Is it the house or love
we are moving out of?
Perhaps we cannot say
but it hurts, all afternoon
our marriage has moved inside me –
the boys, the prints on the stairs,
the broken-down cars, the holidays
in heaven and hell, long Saturdays
in market towns, mad neighbours.
I pick you a pear from the tree
but you have disappeared again
into that silence you inhabit,
your second home, where a whisper
might fall heavily to the floor –
an incendiary, pear-shaped
and loaded with pain.
Shall we stay or leave then, love?
It’s only the years moving inside us
and everything hurts in autumn.
Where shall we put them,
the years, in our new house?
the years we are moving out of?