For William (Bill) James Kell, 1966-2009

Bill played viola for the Scottish
Opera and he rode a shaky brown
Dnepr motorcycle which was loosely
Held together with fist-sized bolts.
His viola used to ride upright
In the sidecar, like they were going
On an adventure together, fighting
Crime or trying to figure out
What was buried in the Rossyln
Chapel crypt (except for dirt
And old bottles of cheap Scotch).
On clear Glasgow mornings,
We drank milky tea, and I would sit
On the pavement next to him
While he fixed this thing or that thing
That had fallen off the bike,
And then he would roll
Me a smoke because it was
The late 1990s and that is
What you did in the late 1990s,
And besides, I was always
Too broke to have more than two
Cigarettes of my own a day,
But Bill had a steady gig
And a union card, so the smokes
Were on him, and there goes Bill,
Roaring off to play La Traviata,
And perhaps solve the whole
Damn mess before some idiot
Shoots the Baron Douphol
Square in the nuts.


For William (Bill) James Kell, 1966-2009

I know you would have thought
I was being stupid, but driving
Home from the train today I heard
Der Hölle Rache, just a few stray
Bars, but Der Hölle Rache all
The same, glowing and soaring
In the whistle register,
The singer on the very edge
Of the very edge, invoking
The Queen of the Night, becoming
The Queen of the Night, placing
A dagger into her daughter’s
Hand, urging murder, demanding
Revenge: the very distillation
Of jealousy and rage—
Verlassen sei auf ewig,
Zertrümmert sei’n auf ewig
And because the music
Came into my thoughts,
You came into my thoughts.
I did not know you had been
Dead these two years,
Or that you had died
On this very day:
O cielo, che veggio! Deliro!
Vaneggio! Che creder non so?
And I know I never told you
What it felt like to hear
You play, see you play, how jealous
I was of your talent, confidence,
Ability, how in the dark, nestled
In the Gods, safe from the rain
And the cold, I strained to see
Your face as you played while
Onstage the singers invoked
Such wonders: finché avrà
Il ciglio lacrime io piangerò per te
And I know you’d hate this,
Be embarrassed by it, but I am
So sorry I wrote this today
Instead of saying it,
All those years ago.

One thought on “Carl James Grindley

  1. Thank you for posting these poems. Bill was a friend and neighbour of mine in the last few years of his life. He was a poor soul towards the end but always kind hearted and a gentleman. I miss him and his wonderful stories. Every time i hear ‘there she goes’ by the la’s, i think of him, he swore he played on it and never got paid :-). r.i.p. Bill, jamming with the angels now x

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