The sadness of traditional instruments

is because they yearn to go back

to return to where they were once played

before the big stage

before the big audience

the kore can smell the earth after rain on the edges of the forest

the shamisen is listening to the village turning in for the night

what they sang before the words were added

what they sang before the songs were famous

they pay close attention to what surrounds them

because they are unhomed

the charango dreams of clouds hiding the distant peaks

the sarod is on a bus heading home

from the market with three women

who sold nothing

but make each other laugh

before the techno version

the santuri has stopped for a drink

men playing cards in a lozenge of light

notes like tobacco brushed off a knee

coloured lanterns moving in the freshening wind

how can we hear that

Commended, Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Prize 2022