Pauline Rowe

Late strings

hear –
of Beethoven’s late string quartet,
no 12 — encounter you once more in the
smokey sunlight, your tender hands moving
along my shoulder, more artist than
musician, that early Autumn moment in
a narrow bed, in your college-
room, composed. You
held in the notes
of this recording
the beginning –
all crackles then
sweet strings.
matter much less as
we get older, as colours
lift themselves into the shallow
shadows of our minds. I imagine you
as you became, not that glamorous young boy
smiling – with the world calling, but a sadder, shyer
man. Love sealed and promised. Your joy disguised
by fatherly concerns, curiosity channelled into honest
pursuits, the making of small comforts, the work that
builds a home, muscle, momentum, feeling the cool
applause of winter rain on your face as you cycled for
hours alone, your mind on music-making and death,
bones, labour, heart, sweat, excellence in your good
children, pain, conversations with experts, some
quick forgetting of old long-lost abandoned
eccentricities, distant rituals of family,
odd friends gone, how you had to
improve, keep on and prove
worth, prove
Beethoven, guiding light
for sorrow, for older reflection, for suffering, for suffering remembered and hidden in anxious age. In
stark black and white I drown in music, hold sound to my skin, rejoice that I knew you. Remember.


Pauline Rowe has  a doctorate in Creative Writing from the University of Liverpool.  She has two collections as well as being published in magazines and anthologies including Coast to Coast to Coast, Morphrog, The Reader, Smoke, The Rialto , Envoi, Orbis etc.,She is working on her third collection and a book about American poet, Frank Bidart.