My Home is Full of Voices

by Keith Jarrett

after the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2020 winners

This summer, they arrived spilling from boxes.
They embraced each other from across continents,
throwing and catching each other’s echoes at the door,
fizzing with new-born verve.
                                                     They are trying to tell us something.

The hallway filled.
They filed through the front door,
a trickle then a stream then a flood.
They thudded into the kitchen, huddling round
the folded card takeaway menu of grief:

                            slug-pickles swimming in emerald brine……….. £8.76
                            hot air, slippery fat, rabbit bones…………..… £17.76
                            meat knocking into itself………………….….. £4.50
                            placed over itself like a dress……………….… £14.90
                            an obscurity amongst the frozen chapattis……… £8.76

                                                     ‘They always supply the change’.

The summer brought them to my home,
conferring with and confirming each other.
I marvelled at their volume. They stretched and flexed
in the living room, scraping melodies through the open window.

They hollered out at the streets below,
knowing what to say to a broken country
and an uncertain world, how to empty their hearts
without trouble. They conspired at the ghost of the fireplace:

Here’s how to approach an elephant in the room/ here’s how to interrogate
a government/ here’s how to interrogate multiple governments/
here’s how to interrogate the legacy of empires/ because
when protesting seems like a trivial pursuit/
what’s the need goin tearin down our history/
People don’t talk about that kind of thing.

They scratched at the furniture with urgency,
peeled strips from the wallpapers to form an elegy,
they upturned expectations and ransacked the cupboards
of imagination. With a chuckle, they lifted out the floorboards,
revealing this dwelling’s foundations to be a palimpsest of emotion.

There was a currency in their calculation,
a compilation of the breathtakingly three-dimensional.
Congregating, finally, at the bathroom mirror, they tickled the reflection
of the evening sun: Like, one minute it’s day and then it’s over. They persisted
through the night, puncturing sleep, seeping into dreams. They were anything but tired.

*

At daybreak, we all gathered
at judging tables to estimate

the weight of each resonance.
We held our breaths under their heft

and turned them inside our ears.
We tried to keep them still

while we scanned them in the light.
They answered back in recognition.

We petitioned: May these voices still live on,
when all of us are dead and gone.

They assured us of their worth,
the timelessness of each utterance,

the abundance of their scale:
They are trying to tell us something.

Our homes now brim with voices.
They arrived in boxes, with the late summer sun.