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Bandstand

 


It should have been me
peering through the coach window
into the dark,
seeing a boy’s pale reflection
glimmer the glass;
but this is a different time
a different place,
a different line upon a different face.

It should have been me on the bandstand
red lipped and long fingered
the silver cornet in my hand
marching Sousa off the pegged page
rattling valves, spitting staccato,
hurling bright notes at the park,
catching the ears and the eyes
of the girls in the dark.

It should have been me
sitting with friends, sharing a joke,
counting out rest bars
the baton dancing in the corner of my eye,
waiting my time,
drawing a deep diaphragm breath,
licking my lips and pitching in
a brazen silver note.

‘Barber of Seville’, ‘Aida’,
‘South Pacific’, ‘Colonel Bogey’;
second cornet harmonies and oom-pahs
familiar as a fairy tale.
It should have been me, having fun,
enjoying the rollicking euphonium
the sad song of the tenor horn
the comic prattle of the E flat bass.

‘Silver Prize Band.’ Prize!
Always practising difficult pieces
by Eric Ball for the next contest.
The Brighton Dome, the Albert Hall,
Yorkshire with its heart of brass,
the sleepy coming home bus
droning through the night,
sing-song, and the smell of beer.

It should have been me:
but that was a different boy,
a different band forty years ago,
a pale face at the window
of a different world.
Let him play! Let him play,
my tune is done,

I blew my chance away.

 

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