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Poetry Magnum Opus

A Witness to His Century


dedalus

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The light, I see, is fading,

infinitessimally shading

 

daytime colours into tones of grey.

 

Twice have the servants come

offering to light the candles,

twice have I waved them away.

 

I know I am but a guest,

and I know the servants need their rest.

 

I sigh. I have little time. Come close and let me begin ...

 

I sit with this blanket on my knees,

obdurate, unmoving,

alone in this oh so familiar room,

communing with the dust-motes of the past.

 

We had returned in a lather after the hunt

Look here, old boy, don't be a c--t!

bellowed Ivo, expounding the need for war

just over there -- there by the cloissoné table;

(yes, we did use THAT kind of language then!)

This bloody old Kaiser needs what-for!

 

Ivo copped it in the first few days

along with his brother and four of our cousins

and Death became known in ... industrial ways

to all of our class and generation;

I was out there, of course, beastly drunk

from start to finish, can't recall a bloody thing

 

before drifting home, being let go,

to indifferent thanks from a shattered nation.

I still have the medal, you know, it reads

"The Great War for Civilization"

 

The Twenties passed in a cocktail haze

of very long nights and very short days;

I believe I got married once or twice,

so hard to recall, I was never quite sober

after Passchendaele, I can remember fondling

short-skirted girls, rubbery, frightfully nice!

 

And I seem to remember some trouble and fuss,

that was '26, I think, I was driving a bus.

There was a strike of some kind, and the 'civil power'

hadn't expected me to run over their own policemen,

which I did, I'm afraid, and when the crowd closed in,

they cheered the hero of the hour!

 

In the Crash my chums lost all their money,

silly asses, and none of them could quite see the funny

side of things, as I did, who lived on land,

or rather on the backs of my hardworking peasants;

and so I flitted about town, much the same as ever,

charming to a slight but unforgiving degree,

distributing wicked ... calculated presents.

 

The Thirties were long and infinitely weary,

the people poor, bad-tempered, resentful, dreary;

I considered a sojourn in warmer foreign climes

but was consumed with such malignant hatred

for Mosley, AND for that bastard Churchill,

that I chose to wait.

 

We should have gone to war in Thirty-Eight,

could have wrapped it up: '39 was too late.

But -- the pusillanimous politicians still held sway,

Halifax; and that grisly Birmingham tosspot, pallid

Chamberlain, "J'aime Berlin"; there was only Winston,

half-mad, a glowering crackpot, to lead the way.

 

I had quite a jolly war, I must confess,

half-sober, exciting, but you must not press

for details. Mum's the word, (dear lost and darling mother)

for it was a world of codes and radios,

parachute jumps and secret agents,

and when it ended, I prayed for another

 

being flushed, arrogant, never dreaming that

 

many years on, I would get my other war

but not the one I'd bargained for. Now, this moment,

as the room grows dark and the staircase creaks,

I sit here alone with this blanket on my knees,

straining hard to hear the echoes from the past,

voices, sounds, little leaks from shameful memories.

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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The poem starts out in a mesmerizing, lyrical fashion:

 

The light, I see, is fading,

infinitessimally shading

 

daytime colours into tones of grey.

That's the hook. And the speaker's tone itself has benevolent, likable characteristics --

 

Twice have the servants come

offering to light the candles,

twice have I waved them away.

 

I know I am but a guest,

and I know the servants need their rest.

 

I sigh. I have little time. Come close and let me begin ...

-- which prime the reader for the narrative to follow:

 

I sigh. I have little time. Come close and let me begin ...

Indeed, this persona's yarn spans eventful decades and seems to resonate in a well-known chorus: "Pleased to meet you hope you guess my name." As always, I'm captivated by your historical references and adaptations, Brendan.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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this is very long poem, the pondering part may go beyond my appreciation, but I like the setting dearly.

The light, I see, is fading,

 

infinitessimally shading

 

daytime colours into tones of grey.

 

Twice have the servants come

offering to light the candles,

twice have I waved them away.

 

I know I am but a guest,

and I know the servants need their rest.

 

I sigh. I have little time. Come close and let me begin ...

 

I sit with this blanket on my knees,

obdurate, unmoving,

alone in this oh so familiar room,

communing with the dust-motes of the past.

 

The tone is dignified, grave and devotional.

Edited by worm
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Hi Brendan, I am playing catch up again as usual and I always seem to head for your latest first. You are a master storyteller and I know you will make me think and be entertained at the same time. I actually thought the poem rather short considering the timeline you covered. I am always impressed by your ability to mold a character and direct your reader to see through his or her eyes. You never disappoint me.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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