• Joanna Seldon

  • Death of a Clarinet


    Today I threw my clarinet away.

    Its grain was like the faded coat

    Of some sick black beast, its keys were blind:

    Dulled, filmed, spent; fire and burnish quenched,

    Its throat was silent, stilled through lack of use.

    Where was that sensual longing

    Turned  by Mozart enchantments into sound?

    I threw my clarinet away today.


    The snap of key on hole, the cork muffling

    Its fall, and cork on all those joints  –

    It’s thinned in each place like an old man’s skin.

    I cannot twist the aching parts

    Of this neglected body into place.

    So instead I stroke the mouthpiece,

    My finger catching where I used to chew.

    My clarinet I threw away today.


    No single reed will wake this silent form.

    A box from some Paris workshop

    Lies where it’s slept for years in its grey bed,

    The lining of a broken case,

    Sides split, catch slipped.  It hasn’t made a sound

    For forty years.  Clarinets now

    Aren’t made of wood.   Plastic is tough; endures.

    Today I threw my clarinet away.


    Why keep it?  Who can bring it back to life?

    It died so long ago, it needs

    Simple burial in a rubbish sack.

    Let’s face the end of life.  Once supple, we

    Don’t re-assemble any more

    To be what once we were; the sounds we make

    Aren’t silken like Prokofiev’s cat.

    I threw my clarinet away today.


    I will be now forever doing this,

    I know, until my voice is dumb.

    I’ll never play my clarinet again.

    I’ll never read those books.  Take them,

    Give them to those you love; give them to those

    You’ll never know, before they fade

    And fester, like this dying beast  –

    My clarinet I threw away today.