Virginia Astley


The harp displayed on the stairs, half-way, at the point
where the treads curved and broadened before sweeping
grandly down to the checkerboard marble of the hall floor.

His household considered it to be an affectation,
Tito could not play, it was merely an ornament.
Passers-by, if they were to glance up, there it was; framed

in the oriel window, the maple of its soundboard,
the small carved dogs, its fluted pillars with cherubs,
its forty-five gut strings, all gathering golden dust.

At nights, should the window be open,
the driving wind would sing through the strings
and, alone in his bed, with the rain lashing and beating

about the house, Tito would hear the harmonics
like a finger on a rim of glass. And if Tito, sleepless
should descend the stairs in his bathrobe singing Im Frühling –

‘so traulich und so nah’ softening to a pianissimo
for the sleeping house, if he were to pause at the curve
of the banister and listen to the sympathetic resonance

of the harp, he would rest a liver-spotted hand
on a cherub and wait as the diminuendo of his last notes
wove and died between the strings.

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