Jonathan Davidson is a writer, poet and memoirist. He has been published widely, and his most recent book is A Commonplace: Apples, Bricks & Other People’s Poems, which appeared in 2020. Jonathan has also written audio drama for the BBC, and produced touring poetry theatre shows with Bloodaxe Books. He lives in the English Midlands.
A Letter to
Johann Joachim Quantz
Do not be sentimental or in your art
~ W S Graham ~
You tutored me to not expect applause,
and I was not disappointed. Though it was
still chilblain weather, my fingers lifted
like lapping water, letting and stopping
the sounds, to make – I hardly reckoned how –
one of your capriccios. So they stood me –
my hands hard from hauling ropes, my face
weather-reddened – in a sweating corner
of a silk room and pretended to listen.
What forced and servant music rippled
through the chambers of the recently rich
and along the canals! I was a carrier –
as the barge, the smack, the wherry is –
of freight or ballast, and out I went
into The Baltic or The German Sea.
So they kept me for this purpose only,
and great service did I do them all,
bearing away the frightening silence.
Johann Joachim Quantz (1697–1773) was a flautist, composer and
teacher, remembered mostly for his book On Playing the Flute.
I walked with my invisible father
out into the fields on the edge
of town. But they are gone now:
new roads, new names, new people.
Dad, stay here for a while, I said,
and I’ll go and find out what
has happened to our lives. He sat
on the newly installed bench.
And when I returned, furnished
with stories of change, I found him
utterly dead, his cold eyes
on the cold world closed. So
many years he had lived here
and then this: his roads renamed,
his fields built over, his people
coming into view as strangers.
A Quadratic Equation
A dad and a daughter are solving a quadratic equation.
They are seeking the value of x using the appropriate process,
beginning with factorisation. A solution is proving elusive;
they are outside the problem looking in at curtained windows.
Upstairs a son, who’s employed in the building trade, plays guitar
unaware of the mathematical impossibility of ‘equal temperament’.
And a mum is in the front room working out the likelihood
of character a killing character b before the end of the episode.
The daughter and the son cross on the stairs. She is fractious
and has been sent to bed, while the dad puts in a couple more hours,
but to no avail. Whatever the value of x they shan’t know tonight.
And perhaps x has no value. Or perhaps it has many values.
Perhaps it is discovered in the dissonant chords that the son
untangles, or in the loaded silence between character a
and character b before the gun goes off, or perhaps it is simply
that which cannot be expressed although it is known to exist.
All poems: A Commonplace: Apples, Bricks & Other
People’s Poems (Smith|Doorstop)