When our elderly English deckhand Jimmy slipped
on iron deck, bumped his head on the railing and died,
his demise shocked the young who didn’t know that
the claw of death could strike that fast.
We rolled Jimmy in a blue sheet (white beddings for
the officers and blue for the crew) and put him in
the ship’s meat freezer so small that his body was
rubbing up against carcasses of New Zealand lamb.
The cook next day came up from the storeroom, white
in face, claiming Jimmy sat there with a blanket over
his shoulders complaining that he was cold; and yes,
he had been seen on deck too just wandering about.
Twenty two, mostly young, men were now thoroughly
spooked by an elderly dead deckhand and we still had
a three weeks voyage before reaching port, where we
may not be allowed to bury him ashore.
Burial at sea, to everyone’s relief, bits of iron fastened
to his body, the captain read something from the bible,
Jimmy’s body lowered into the water, a splash and
horror struck we saw it sink very slowly
The Grand Illusion
Happiness is all about pretence
I used to be cynical and bitter
looking for my youth, laughed
at by young girls who found me
so utterly absurd. Now that I’ve
decided to be a crusty old man,
slightly cynical, yet wise I feel
so good about myself that a trite
word like happiness is quite apt.
My dog had been knocked down by a car,
still she lay, blood on her snout, thought
she was dead, put her in a large bin liner
drove through the night into the highland
where she was born and I thought of Edith
Piaf, dead in the back of a van, and driven
from Marseille to Paris in the night.
In the corner of a potato field I dug a hole
while the dog got out of the sack and sat
watching me wondering what I was up to.
When I saw her I thought she was a ghost
shocked fell into the hole and bumped my
head on a stone, woke up when the dog
licked my face trying to save my life.
I was a tired first- world- war soldiers sat
on the edge of a Flanders’ trench listening to
the silence, Christmas Eve, cannons booms
had ceased only their ominous echo rang in
my ears, men from both side of the war zone
sang carols into the cold unforgiving night.
“War’s over Bambi let’s go home and eat. . .
We now know why
the sky in
was so oddly red
there had been
a volcanic eruption in
pity the man on
the bridge, who had
the afternoon sky
I’m going to a wedding in June; in the part of
Brussels where even street cleaners speaks
French, all be it, with a working class accent.
The bride and groom have lived together for
twenty years and have adult children, their parents
will look ancient walking down the aisle.
Their children, both at university, are slightly
embarrassed they had hoped, as had the groom
for a modest registrar office affair.
But the bride wants her day, a wedding as big
as the one her younger sister had ten years
ago in the splendid city of Paris; so there.
I’m not a party animal, if sober I’m ill at ease,
if I drink I talk a lot till peoples’ eyes glaze
over, or I fall asleep on the nearest couch.
I have promised to be on my best behaviour
these means diet coke on ice and try not to
look at my wrist watch every five minutes.
A frantic way to cover
For lack of self worth
Is to be on friendly terms
With the bully
Only true cowards
Have the intelligence needed
To leave street life
Confirms beyond doubt
That violence works.
Often murder is…
A small man’s easy answer
To a big problem
To tell Palestinians:
“Get a life, forget Nakba.”
Is like telling Jews:
“Get a life, forget Holocaust
It never happened anyway.”
Time is a vacuum
Through its enormity we walk
On paths unseen,
Yet each one is made for us
And leads to where sky meets sea.
Than I think.