Riddle II

Riddle II

I have no voice. Yet I sing sweet and high
As any summer lark. I draw no breath
But must have air; without it, I will lie
Inert, in rigid silence, cold as death.
I have no heart. But press me to your lips
And I’ll requite thee instantly; you’ll feel
My racing pulse beneath your fingertips.
I’m delicate, refined, yet with a steel
That runs right through: scratch me, I will not bleed.
My joints are straight and true: I do not bend.
I’ll do your bidding: all my strength and speed
Are in your hands. But here’s the trick, my friend:
I’m always on your right side, always near.
But when you pick me up, I disappear.


Another Anglo-Saxon-inspired brain-teaser for a chilly winter’s morning. I had such fun writing this.

19 thoughts on “Riddle II

  1. Hi Nick 🙂 what lovely enjoyable poem. Making music must have inspired you 🙂 (I read the tag)

    It was fun writing, it is also fun to read!

    The last line will keep me puzzling for a while 🙂

    Ina x

    • LOL. It’s because the flute sticks out to one side when you play it, so when you’re looking at the music, you can’t actually see the instrument at all! When I was first learning the flute, my mother (who played the piano) just didn’t understand how I knew where to put my fingers when I couldn’t actually see them! N.x

  2. The hours is getting late here, but I promise to flute through the rest of the evening as the scales are put into their proper places and the entire universe of night begins to sing. What is good about these riddles is not only the riddle, but the skill of the verse, the cleverness of the idea, the dancing of the language, rhymes that are not strained, and fourteen lines of sonnet magic. May this evening soften the strain of the day with the sound of music played by a master sonneteer.

    • If I ever have business cards made (and I’ve resisted for more than 10 years now!) I shall put my title as ‘Copywriter and Sonneteer’. Thank you, Thomas – I could ask for no higher praise than that!

    • When we got our Finals results, some uni friends (including the girl who’s now my wife) and I went and played with one of those 25-business-cards-for-£1 machines in WHSmith, just to see what it felt like to put ‘B.Sc.(Hons)’ after our names…ah, the innocence of youth. I still have one of the cards I made that day; presciently, I styled myself even then as ‘Itinerant poet and troubadour’. It’s taken 20 years, but I think I’ve finally made it!! In future, I shall always introduce myself as a Sonneteer, though; it definitely has a ring to it.

      Looks as though I’m going to have to make the next riddle a bit easier…!


  3. I am confirming my “thickness” !!! I should have got this straight away – I am so cross with myself. My older daughter played the flute for years but I never thought about not being able to see where her fingers were going! probably too busy trying to stop her very much younger sister from pulling the stand over! I think the music teacher dreaded coming to our house!

    Seriously though I cheated and as soon as I saw “flute” in the tags I wanted to pretend I hadn’t looked!! LOL

    Christine x

    • Ah, don’t worry, Christine, you’re in good company – David, Ina, John and Charles all had to look at the tags as well! It’s funny how the flute effectively becomes invisible as soon as you start playing it. It’s one of the great ironies of being a cyclist, too: you buy a beautiful bike, then when you get on it, you can’t see it any more; a wise man once said that the only way you can truly admire your bike is to get someone else to ride it! N.x

  4. The last line definitely perplexed me. From your previous work I knew you played the flute, so I guessed correctly at first, but then I was mislead and changed my mind.
    How could such a solid piece of object disappear ‘from one’s hands’?
    I really must interpret the words more carefully. Sigh…

    #BTW, I loved your previous posts, the owls, letting go, the sea-trout. I wish I had words like the others to describe the beauty I find in these works, but since I can’t, I appreciate them quietly in my own way, and simply click the like button. 😉

    • That last line foxed a few people, I think; as I said to Christine, it refers to the fact that the flute is held out to the player’s right-hand side, so you can’t actually see it when you hold it in the correct playing position – something my mother (a pianist) and father (a violinist) could never get their heads round!

      And I’m so pleased you liked (and ‘Liked’!) the earlier poems; the fatc that they’re being read and enjoyed in any way, by anyone, still amazes and delights me! Thank you so much. Nick.

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