Poems by Richie McCaffery - Monthly Features July 2018
The Spanish guitar
The Spanish guitar belonged to a dead girl,
your baby-sitter, killed when the sun
blinded her as she drove to pick you up.
It was forgotten about until recently
when your childhood home was emptied
and you gave it to me. They’re usually cheap
but this one is a cut above, mellow and rich.
You could say it’s the wood and craftsmanship
but it’s also the hole at the centre of it,
the absence, the dead air sent singing –
melody only becomes such when it leaves
the instrument, fans out and haunts us.
It reminds me of that nature show we saw,
how tigers communicate through marked trees
and sometimes never meet, how we’re just
brushing with hope against wood or paper.
I love playing it and singing if I’m alone.
One day on the train I was looking forward
to strumming it at home when we stopped
outside a cemetery, waiting for a signal.
With all the angular, polished granites
it looked like a station from the 1930s.
No one alighted and after an age
the train lurched into motion again.
The way bombed earth is most fertile,
it’s easier to believe in a power on high
than in ourselves. I’ve known you less than
a third of my years but you’re my whole life.
I was once one of the so many spilled
peppercorns that roll the earth, too much
for the recipe. Whatever it is we’ve
made together, we’re essential ingredients.
In Ostend we were in a takeaway and
the man who served us was a refugee.
He told us how lonely he was as he
served fast-food with a lingering aftertaste.
How hard to be an anaesthetist, knowing
you only dull, not cure, another’s pain.
Richie McCaffery hails from Warkworth, Northumberland but now lives with his Flemish wife in Ghent, Belgium. He was a Carnegie Trust Caledonian scholar at the University of Glasgow where he earned his PhD in 2016. He is busy working on an edited collection of essays reappraising the work of Scottish poet Sydney Goodsir Smith for publication by Brill / Rodopi as well as a selected edition of the Glaswegian playwright Joan Ure's poems. He has two poetry pamphlets (Spinning Plates from HappenStance Press and Ballast Flint from Cromarty Arts Trust, which was runner-up in the 2014 Callum Macdonald Pamphlet Award) to his name. In 2015 he researched, edited and put together Finishing the Picture: The Collected Poems of Ian Abbot (Kennedy and Boyd). In 2014 his published his first full collection of poems, Cairn from Nine Arches Press. His second collection, entitled Passport is due out from Nine Arches Press in July 2018.