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When the piano-maker crafted my grandfather
Gently bending his mahogany bones
He was not constructing, he was creating
Bringing him to life,
He gave to me a guardian
With a life most complicated
Whose love never outdated
But who now lies in the ground ill-fated.
When I was young, I’d dance upon his golden feet.
Neat, petite, my path to the afterlife.
They sat there, quaint, to prolong the sound
Of the piano, but could not prolong his life.
My grandfather’s laugh roars and groans,
Rattling his mahogany bones
Like stones
And the tones of his voice echo as he sings,
The sounds flowing grandly through his strings.
Mother pats my head and smiles and says, 'My dear, Pa’s dead, you see.'
But as I close my eyes, hold his ivory hands, the music shapes his face
And I face the fact that though he’s gone, she’s wrong
He’s still here with me.
The notes he sings, changing in modulation
A complication of detailed intonations and different tongues
For the songs of others whose remain unsung.
My grandfather’s laugh roars and groans
Rattling his mahogany bones
Like stones
And the tones that he sings makes the music truly sting
I know now, he soars with new wings.


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This poem was awarded REX Prize Secondary for Poetry Object 2018

Judge's notes:
In ‘Mahogany Bones’, extended personification sees a piano infused with the soul of a grandfather now gone. This integration of music and being is realised through vivid imagery of wooden bones, and the rhythms and repetitions of the piece (so akin to a piano refrain). The strong consideration for aural qualities is realised through alliteration, assonance and rhyme (both internal and end): ‘the tones that he sings makes the music truly sting’. The poet balances sentiments of loss with a sense of timelessness and acceptance of things beyond human control.

~ Red Room Poetry Team
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