No Natural

 (Listen to the poem here)

Inside the café,
over their cups of coffee
and in between
the groping fingers
of the morning sun-
projecting through the crooked slats,
the two musicians
argue their next note.
He scoops lush chords, like tossed handfuls
of  colours which he has wafted
from the luscious, steaming far-off coast
Way up above
she walks her tune
as soft of tread and skilful
as a tightrope walker,
her tone such as
to hush
an infant instantly.

But there’s a corner
in their song
which each turns round
in different ways
where they collide.
Too high, she says,
too low, says he.

They grumble at each other
for a beat or two
and then they start again
but never
do they go beyond
the seventh bar.
Like people I have seen
or been a part of , whose
melodies become an easy twine,
so soon, so comfortably,
except for one place where
one is always singing sharp,
the other flat,
and in between
there is no natural
which either can accept.

It’s hard to make
a tune together
and play it to the very end –
best to pretend
we haven’t heard
and turn to something else.

He sets down his guitar
against the wall,
she lowers her voice,
they bow their heads,
bend to their cups
and drink their coffee
in tune
at last.

                                                                            Phillip Hill 2007



(This poem is included in my book The Observation Car which is available from

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