Horn Of Plenty

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(source)

licquor pours across all floors

it is not possible to become

intoxicated today when

bota bag bleeds and seeps

its blood-red vintage while

weary herdsmen weep

and skin afresh, hanging

hircine hopes on kids

gathering yesterday’s grapes

for fresh pressing

remembering to decant

old with old, the new with new

and both willing the carver

with every bone in their bodies

to gouge with due caution

adhere with common sense

remember libation to providers

and secure for all, in celebration,

that the horn has plenty

Kingdom of Auld Fartdom

I have come to the conclusion that I have now become a tax-paying inhabitant of the kingdom of Auld Fartdom. I have visited its environs from time to time and peeked over the city walls, even ocasionally entering its gates, sometimes shaking my head at what I’ve seen inside. People, old and young and some of indeterminate age, cautiously going through the motions of life or, contrarily, completely knackered by their exertions in the fray.

I’ve always hastily withdrawn from these forays, accepting that some there are who are old before their time and others whose age has caught up with them, lassoed their legs and brought them down with a yeeha!

Lying in state upon my king-sized, coffee at hand, kindle on lap, I’m trying to recollect the last time I really felt like moving myself on a Friday instead of succumbing to end-of-week syndrome. Looks shattered, feels shattered, is shattered, shattered I shall be. Let me be.

I’m thinking back to my youth (pre-marriage and weans) and recalling how I was always first in from work, way before my brothers and sisters. I had first dibs on the boiler and didn’t even think of needing or stopping for coffee or any other sustenance such was my anticipation at the evening ahead. Getting shifted had priority over everything else. Leisurely hours of prepping for a night on the town were punctuated by the sounds of my siblings arguing over who needed access to the shower next. How many times one or other of my brothers would play the self-same trick of pleading an urgent calling for the bathroom, forestalling my sister’s ablutions, only to hear her roaring at them for stealing her towels and toiletries as the emergency apparently required immediate use of the goods laid out.

I would be listening to music, applying makeup, drying my hair, happily distanced from the melee if not the noise. Teachers’ hours were in my favour then.

The school day has changed somewhat, the hours have even altered a bit but not enough to signify the turnaround on my Fridays.

Supposing I had a heavy date lined up with Wolverine’s alter ego I’d be hard pushed to rouse myself with anything approaching the same cheery demeanour.

Want the shower? Have the shower? Need my toiletries? Wire in.

Trying to recollect when exactly it changed is proving elusive too. I still remember three nights out at the weekend in early marriage so not at that point. After kids? I could still have moved myself with gusto but opportunities were limited. Whenever they availed themselves I was like a dog out of trap two. So not then either.

Recent Friday forays into the city have been prepped for with fucks and grumbles at having to be there at a certain time, the inconvenience of getting there and the bigger one of getting home. But I’ve gone and enjoyed it despite myself.

Tonight though, supposing I was offered chauffeur-driven luxury each way, a slap-up meal in between finished off with dancing and a spot of tongue-tangoing with wolfman I’d have to decline.

Because I’ve taken up residence in the royal burgh of Auld Fartdom, just within the walls of the city, very much part of the kingdom and I can see people peeking through the gates. I’m mouthing, ‘fuck off’ at them with the gurniest face I can muster and I think I might like it.

 

One coffee has boosted my reserves and I’m contemplating a glass of red to remove the sound of children’s voices from my day.

If anyone does have a spare limo at the ready I may, with the help of some lubrication, be persuaded to step outside of the city walls for old time’s sake. But you can still have first dibs on the boiler. It’s a combi. Bit like myself on a Friday.

Matins’ Bell

‘I’m tired now’, he said, by light of darkness,

mumbled into night his waking thoughts,

a plaintive sort of fatigued exaltation,

no defeat but crushed by earthly knocks.

A glimmer in the darkness listened keenly,

spluttered into life to ease his pain,

descended on his forehead as he struggled

pasting joys in desiccated pains.

In dreams he saw a dancer up above him,

then dancing on the parquet floor of hairless pate

and, in the gentle tapping of her footsteps,

he traversed back in time through all life’s gates.

To childhood days that merged with church’s bell ring

and infant hands so soft within his grasp,

sunshine holidays and harder times when

they’d pulled in belts and wondered if, perhaps,

the work and want, the endless, restless passage,

fraught with cares and doing all he could

were worth the love of all that gathered round him.

He sighed in sleep and smiled at all the good.

The dancer danced and then lay flat upon him,

impressed herself, as light, into his mind,

bestowed the recollected visions of his voyage

and whispered tunes he’d carried deep inside.

His breathing eased and slowed to mellow movements,

shallow sighs belied the deeper well,

exchange of life, the price became apparent,

sleep on in peace or ring aged matins bell.

Light maintained its presence in his mindset,

centred on his soul when he awoke,

he smiled at love that lay asleep beside him

and whispered thanks to angels when they spoke.

Not All Is A Memory

Not All Is A Memory Photo courtesy of Mark

 

We bathed here

Clothes thrown to boughs

Skinny dipping in the dark

Skin touching undercover of ripples

Calm surface wakened by our arousal

Stretching in the sand

Giggling in the moonlight

Those were the days then

When cares were only for years to come

And eyes sought the others in black holes of midnight

Peaks outlined by starry skies

We loved then freely and with energy that age envies

We love still

Not all is a memory

Love’s Young Heart

Love’s young heart is broken,

The physical, a token

Of passion, panting in the night,

Heat of bodies, hid’n from sight.

 

Love’s young heart is hurting,

And questions, ‘What is trust?’

‘I love you,’ words were spoken.

Now ashes burnt, so dust.

 

Love’s young heart knows treason

And fears another mate.

The ‘what ifs’ penetrate the mind.

The heart decides to wait.

 

Love’s young heart knows hope.

It’s buoyant, bounces back.

It learns to love again, once more,

Unlike aged hack

 

Who tires of Cupid’s failures

And cries a flood of tears,

Cherishes their solitude

And misspent, lonely years.

 

Love’s young heart is gracious.

It bows its head in shame.

It learns that, sometimes, it is wrong

And tries another’s name.

 

Love’s young heart knows beauty

But beauty, born of face.

Love’s older heart seeks beauty too –

Serenity and grace.

The Veteran

The Veteran

I only met them a few times. For me, the final encounter was the best.

The wheelchair I was temporarily confined to ought to have protected me from any cruel remarks. It proved, however, to be no barrier to them and no armour for me. I felt every word they threw at me.

At first, I had been angry to be restrained in such a way but I knew that life brought its own trials and, gradually, I had begun to accept the necessity of my conveyance.

‘It is only for a little while,’ my daughter, Anne, had reminded me time and again.

My ill-temper had abated and now I allowed Anne to push me around the town. There was little point in attempting to do so myself: I was useless at steering and there were too many hills to negotiate safely in the out-dated contraption they had given me at the hospital.

I was embarrassed at being so immobilised but I did not expect these feelings to be aggravated by ridicule. Not, that is, until we met the little swine. For swine they were: truffling about in the twilight; scenting out delights of trouble; heedless of anyone or anything else but their own malicious pursuits. I had seen them before, in passing. Now, travelling at this forcedly slow pace, there could be no passing. Only confrontation.

‘I like your pram, auld man!’ one wit called.

‘Give us a hurl,’ said another, looking sideways for approval from the first.

My daughter said nothing and continued to push the chair as if she had heard nothing. I wanted to say two words but I had always avoided swearing in the presence of my children. Not that it would have shocked her. No-one could avoid hearing it these days. Where once foul language had been the preserve of navvies, now you could hear it on any bus or street: from male or female, regardless of age; without any thought for who could overhear.

What I would not have given to have told them where to go. But I was disciplined. And abstinence from cursing within my family circle for so long left me speechless now. Instead, I ignored them and muttered to myself, keeping the annoyance within.

The second meeting happened some time later. Again, my daughter was with me.

Having dwelt on the previous encounter for so long afterwards, I knew I would not let another opportunity go by.

The heckling began as soon as they saw our approach.

‘Hey, it’s the auld guy. Give us a wee shot, eh.’

Without waiting for more, I said,

‘You had better know that I’m a veteran a….’

My sentence went unfinished as one yob jumped in front of me. Grabbing hold of both arms of the wheelchair, he sneered directly into my face, his breath reeking of cheap wine and cigarettes.

‘I don’t care if you’re a veteran of the Gulf War or a veteran surgeon……You’re in a pram now. Some set of wheels. Is this your tank?’ Stupidly cackling at his own remark.

He could not have been more than fourteen or fifteen years old and I knew that to lay a hand on him would involve my daughter and myself in trouble. Street-wise life knew their rights. Responsibilities were never mentioned. The plastered leg beneath my blanket would have made an ideal weapon but, again, caution prevailed. I abstained from any rash action.

My daughter’s voice held fear in its simple statement, but only I would recognise that.

‘Excuse us,’ she said. ‘You’re in our way and that policeman coming along the street has his eye on you.’

The youth turned and, fortunately, a blue-uniformed figure was indeed making his way towards us.

One of the three said, ‘It’s the polis. Move!’

As one, they scurried off. The leader’s parting shot was a glob of spit which landed right in front of my chair.

The officer approached us and asked, with genuine concern, if the youths had troubled us.

‘Youths!’ I said. ‘Little swine, more like. I’ll fix them soon enough.’

‘Now, Sir,’ said the young policeman, ‘I couldn’t possibly condone your taking matters into your own hands. If, however, you would like to make a formal complaint about their behaviour to you, I could certainly assist in some way. Our hands are so often tied in these matters.’

I spoke briefly with the officer and reassured him that I did not intend the young ones actual bodily harm. Reminding us to take care, he gave me or my wheelchair a sympathetic glance and patrolled on, bending his head to radio some message or other in.

Anne pushed me slowly home, worrying all the while about the state of today’s youth: what could be the root causes; what could be done to change the course of the frightening decline.

I wondered too. I wondered about my own determination to protect my children from danger and evil and foulness. I wondered about the parents who did not know what their offspring were doing and showed little care to find out. I wondered about how safe any person was, in a world where even someone in a wheelchair was fair game. I thanked God for many aspects of my life on that slow journey home. I especially thanked him for my broken leg and the insight it had given me. And how I thanked Him for the news the doctor had given me earlier that week. Soon the plaster would be off.

I would give those young ones a chance. A few months to see if life and the opportunities it presents had had any impact on them. A few months to regain my strength.

When I explained the situation to the doctor at my check up, he very kindly agreed to lend me the wheelchair for the day. Anne was less than happy to be an accomplice to what she feared would end in harm but I reassured her.

We took the same route as before and, sure enough, they were there. At the corner of the street they stood, just past the public park that almost everyone was afraid to venture into at night. The three of them were there. I had my eye on one. Break the leader, I said to myself. Go for the leader.

I told my daughter to slow down a little and, long before we reached them, Loudmouth started.

‘Hey, boys. It’s the auld man, the vet. Come on we’ll see if he’ll give us a wee shot today. There’s no polis about.’ A quick check around confirmed his statement.

Nothing had changed, obviously.

Anne coughed nervously, knowing that this time matters would be different. I heard her mumble a prayer. She need not have worried. I meant no harm. Just a little lesson in humility.

Now they were in front of us, blocking our path, ready to begin again.

I forestalled them.

‘You boys owe my daughter and myself an apology.’

Loud laughing prevented me from saying anything further.

‘An apology, is it?’ the leader said. ‘Get that, boys. The auld guy wants us to say sorry to him and his bitch. Fat chance.’

Again, there was loud laughing as one looked to the other and back to me for my reaction.

I could feel my ire rise at the crude way he spoke of my daughter. I breathed deeply and exercised the discipline that would win the day.

I pulled my blanket up, enough to reveal my footwear.

It had the desired effect.

‘Ho, Tam, check the trainers.’

Tam, the leader, looked longingly at my footwear.

‘Now, wait a minute, Granda, I could do with a pair of those. What size are you?’

At this question and without another word I pulled the blanket aside and stood up.

‘I’ll give you a five second start. Go!’ I shouted.

Confusion lasted long enough for them to take in the rest of my attire. Then they ran.

They headed down the street and straight for the park.  This was their haunt. They knew it well. But I did too. I chased. At first, they pulled away from me – youth and speed – a natural combination.

I followed. I felt bionic. Into the park, between the trees, over flowerbeds, onto forbidden grass, into the centre of a small copse of trees. Yes, they were young. Yes, they were fast. At first. But I had stamina and years of running behind me; road races, track events, cross country, marathons. I had these. Grey hair mattered not. In and out and through the trees, I kept my eyes on one. Catch the leader, I told myself. Tam ran but began to wane. I ran and caught.

His frightened eyes took in my gleaming ones. Full knowledge dawned as he read the inscription on my running vest. ‘Veteran Athletics’.

‘Move,’ I said. ‘My daughter’s waiting. There’s no excuse for pig-ignorance. Make the apology a good one.’

He did.

And from some vantage point, his peers witnessed it. Tam had fallen. When I am old, as well as grey, I know I will especially savour and remember the feel of my hand on the scruff of his neck as I ran him back to the point of conflict: he, puffing and panting for breath, trying to keep up, while I kept time for him, with ‘hup, two, three, fours’.

Even now I like to think that I did for him and his cronies what someone once did for me. Set me on the right track.