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Lay for the Day
21st March

The cellist Paul Tortelier
was born on this day in 1914, in Paris. It’s also the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (in 1685) and of the great Mississippi Delta bluesman Son House, in 1902 (who is commemorated with a poem on his day of dying, 19th October).


Who’s on telly?
haired, the master
cellist, Monsieur
teaches English
roses Elgar’s passion.

Music, he says,
is a lesson
in love, whereas
to be méchant,
to be wicked
is to be sans
song. The pupils widen

and fall for him.
A little more,
a little less –
is beautiful.
No need, with such
coaxing, to coach.
Strung to thrill to the bow

of a moment,
fingerboard arch
of the nose curved
proud of carved cheeks
whose scrollwork grooves
frame a swift smile,
he leans forward, all ears.

John Gibbens
from Characters: You & I

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar