The following sequence comprises four sonnets that are substantial revisions of pieces I wrote in January 1986. The original versions of Parts I, III & IV appeared in my collection from 1987, Red Moon. If I publish a collection, this sequence will open it.
The epigraph is a quotation I was fond of repeating to my dad when, as a teenager home from boarding school on holiday, I often slept until noonish. He figures in the first sonnet as Papsie. This is actually an anachronism considering the date of the original compositions inasmuch as this epithet for my dad was first applied by one of my nephews fifteen years later. But I like it so well that I have thrown it in here. Peter Needham was a friend of my mother’s who gave me a ten-point list of possible career choices in London in 1984. ‘Busker’ wasn’t on his list. I never called him ‘Pete’, but someone must have, and it fits the metre.
The Birth of a Poet
If a man does not keep pace with his
companions, perhaps it is because he
hears a different drummer. Let him
step to the music which he hears,
however measured or far away.
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I’m working at a gentle pace,
a rhythm of my own;
it isn’t hard to find a place
where I can play trombone.
I simply stand and improvise
to music in my ears,
a line of work that might surprise
Pete Needham at Careers.
And when I stop, say half-past five,
it’s not as if I’m sad;
the very fact I’m still alive
and kicking makes me glad.
The pay’s not great, but I survive.
Poor Papsie thinks I’m mad.
I’m living like a vagabond.
Why ‘settle’ for the best?
I chucked in uni for a blonde.
That’s how to ‘pass’ a test!
I act according to the Tao,
‘a real nowhere man’.
I’m happy in the here and now
and seldom have a plan.
So when I’m heckled on the road
by people asking why
I choose to have my fixed abode
beneath the open sky,
I treat them to my latest ode
before they walk on by.
I always knew I wasn’t scared
of people acting God,
but never thought that I’d have dared
to turn on PC Plod
and leave my victim shrinking as
I thundered down the hill.
Well, that’s what comes from all that jazz
and too much time to kill.
I hung a left, and soon I’d found
a disused railway line.
Deserted. Not a soul around.
It wasn’t by design,
but nonetheless I’ve gone to ground.
And look! Sunshine!
Home is where my heart is light;
home is where I’m me;
home is where I’m out of sight,
autonomous and free.
I’ll sing my sonnets on the street
until the day I die.
And even then, perhaps, my feet
will tap for passers-by.
This walk of life, a subway star,
is close to my ideal;
I’m learning how to play guitar
and finding out what’s real.
It doesn’t matter where you are:
just trust the way you feel.
Here’s a sung version: