My Uncle Fred

His narrow, terraced house survives the blitz
until its blacked-out windows can enjoy
daylight, hazed by lace, creating
patterns on the polished, oilclothed floor.

Hiss click, hiss click. Steel needles conjure
symphonies from brittle, shellac discs
(a giddy dog admires His Master’s Voice)
spinning new worlds between the dull brown walls
– and on the picture rails, hung by their wheels,
aircraft, created by a master’s craft –
doped tissue paper cloaks the balsa frames
glued under gaslight, employing self-taught skills.

With equal gentleness he strokes a bow
across a violin or – on Sunday,
a day for ritual – sets foot
inside the musty, hallowed sitting-room,
draws in his fragile breath and
pulls with sympathetic strength
at organ stops, summoning a fugue by Bach
to rattle doors, disturb the cats,
shake off a week of post-war toil.

His diaries record the thud of bombs,
the price of fish, a flower seller killed,
a rose in bloom, a broadcast by the King
and other miscellaneous things… a baby’s birth

Tony French

The diaries of Uncle Fred, inherited by the author of this poem, are published day by day on their 70th anniversay, at War & peace & the price of cat-fish