The Unaccompanied

by Simon Armitage

Wandering slowly back after dark one night
above a river, toward a suspension bridge,
a sound concerns him that might be a tune
or might not: noise drifting in, trailing off.

Then concerns him again, now clearly a song
pulsing out from the opposite bank, being sung
by chorusing men, all pewter-haired or bald,
in the function suite of a shabby hotel.
Above their heads a conductor’s hand
draws and casts the notes with a white wand.

Songs about mills and mines and a great war,
about mermaid brides and solid gold hills,
songs from broken hymnbooks and cheesy films.

Then his father’s voice rising out of that choir,
and his father’s father’s voice, and voices
of fathers before, concerning him only,
arcing through charged air and spanning the gorge.
He steps over the cliff edge and walks across.

2017, The Unaccompanied (Alfred A. Knopf)

Last updated May 12, 2019