A Tune Half Remembered


Parts of a Tune

W.S. Merwin,  1927-2019, American 

from The Shadow of Sirius, Copper Canyon Press, 2009




One old man keeps humming the same few notes

of some song he thought he had forgotten



The Park Bench, 1946, oil on canvas.  Horace Pippin, 1888-1946, American.  Philadelphia Art Museum


back in the days when as he knows there was

no word for life in the language

and if they wanted to say eyes or heart

they would hold up a leaf and he remembers

the big tree where it rose from the dry ground

and the way the birds carried water in their voices

they were all the color of their fear of the dark

and as he sits there humming he remembers




Benched, 1998, oil on canvas.  Robert Huckestein, American born 1946.  Pennsylvania State Museum, Harrisburg



some of the words they come back to him now



Sidney Bechet’s (1897-1959) instrumental, Petite Fleur, 1952. 

A favourite song of my mother, the tune also has lyrics which come in fragments to me with the memory of her love for us



he smiles hearing them come and go





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