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Lay for the Day 27th November

1942: Jimi Hendrix is born in Seattle.
Someone once said of the great Brazilian footballer Pelé that if he hadn’t been born a man he would have been born as a ball. Though the instrument has had many great and unique players, Jimi is the one who, if he hadn’t been a guitarist, would have been born as a guitar.
From the book of Praises:

25. Of a Guitar

Whose much-depicted outline still in
wood honours a gourd-built ancestor,
worldwide, unstandard shape: what hundreds
of songs have you grown today?

Harmonic abacus whose taut strings
lift in wit or plangently those use-
worn words, like “love”, a chorus pitches
to shine again on their plane.

Sudden, florid, sanguine as a queen
of Barbary in Spain, resounding
pine and rosewood, crowned with thorny hands,
palms and nails, sing from the gut.

Moorish garden paths of nacre grow
round the back and the sound-hole. Well-bred laps
cradled you and with gentle pluckings
coloured the evening ballads,

till, armed with metal and reinforced,
long African fingers overseas
wrung from you the voice of their absence,
which elided Europe’s scales.

Taking you up in place of the lute
or harp in these intricate islands,
by history like the air that feeds you
my hands are weighted again.


John Gibbens
from Collected Poems

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar