Talking to Myself
In the mildew of age
all pavements slope uphill
towards an exit.
It’s late and light allows
the darkest shadow to be born of it.
Courage, the ventriloquist bird cries
(a little god, he is, censor of language)
remember plain Hardy and dandy Yeats
in their inspired wise pre-dotage.
I, old man, in my new timidity,
think how, profligate, I wasted time
– those yawning postponements on rainy days,
those paperhat hours of benign frivolity.
Now Time wastes me and there’s hardly time
to fuss for more vascular speech.
The aspen tree trembles as I do
and there are feathers in the wind.
speak, old parrot,
do I not feed you with my life?
The Origin Of Music
When I was a medical student
I stole two femurs of a baby
from The Pathology Specimen Room.
Now I keep them in my pocket,
the right femur and the left femur.
Like a boy scout, I’m prepared.
For what can one say to a neighbour
when his wife dies? ‘Sorry’?
Or when a friend’s sweet child
suffers leukaemia? ‘Condolences’?
No, if I should meet either friend
or stricken neighbour in the street
and he should tell me, whisper to me,
his woeful, intimate news,
wordless I take the two small femurs
from out of my pocket sadly
and play them like castanets.
Dannie Abse (Cardiff, 22 september 1923)