Helen Clare – For a Boy who Everyone Tells to be Gentle

For a Boy who Everyone Tells to be Gentle

Here, we only ever play the piano softly,
because of the twitching rabbit whose
tender ears touch the ground and feel everything.

Gently, more gently. As gentle as a rabbit.
As gentle as the cat licking salt from the crook
of your fingers after you’ve eaten crisps. Gentle
as the muzzle of a donkey – so different
from the toothy grins of the goats that clatter
their hooves on the bars of the gates,
or the haughty rubber mouths of horses –
remember his velvet lips brushing your hand
as he took carrots. Gentle as blowing parachutes
from dandelion clocks, one by one, and a stray
one tickling your arm. Gentle as picking up
fallen cherry blossom without losing a petal,
as blackberrying without stains on your fingers.

Yes, there’s a gentle pedal, and one that makes
the sound hang. Those three notes, those perfect
notes, hang in the air like cloud. The three of us
now, are inside the notes. You on the stool, me
on the mat, the sleepy rabbit stretched out
by my knee, are within the notes that land
on our skin like droplets. Go on, stroke him
on the cheek. Gently. That’s it. Gentle.

In a previous life Helen Clare was a science teacher – she now works on projects which combine science, poetry and learning, including a poetry residency at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Her published work includes Mollusc (Comma, 2004) and Entomology (Happenstance 2014) and her poems have won a number of national prizes, including First Prize in the London Writers Competition 2002, and Runner Up in the Daily Telegraph/Arvon Competition 2000