Skip to main content

Learning to Whistle

Walking in the park, I came up behind a boy
— of nine or ten — learning to whistle.
A tuneless tangle of notes
and breath where notes should have been.
I slowed my pace, and followed him,
since I was suddenly that boy
— of nine or ten — learning to whistle.
Such patience! And the need to be alone.
What is it in the brain
that teaches tongue and lips
the small adjustments
— infinitely small and deftly quick —
that turn a tube of air to music?
Beethoven’s Fifth, the Marseillaise,
the theme tune to The Archers:
I can do them all!
A talent once learned, never lost,
and disregarded till the boy I once was
is there ahead of me,
rehearsing alone in the park.

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by the author