Thursday, August 2, 2007


With skin like bark, alone he dwelt
In one-roomed cottage on the hill,
Upon his head, a faded pelt,
A relic of some sacred kill.
With gun in hand, he’d prowl the tracks
That didn’t show themselves to us,
Responding to the forest’s buzz,
And robin’s call and twiglet’s cracks,
Pausing, rigid as a yew,
Until his prey came into view.

For thirty years, he’d worn a suit,
A pen and ledger were his tools,
Never rising to refute
Philosophies of earnest fools.
Until my grandma, soft and old,
With cheery eyes and floured hands,
Slipped slowly ‘neath encroaching sands
To leave the kitchen bare and cold.
And then my grandad muttered grace,
And packed a solitary case.

His beard was soft as thistledown,
His eye as sharp as wild-rose thorn,
A careless fox his golden crown,
His kingdom all the sounds of dawn.
He taught us how to wait for trout,
And how to stake our runner beans,
And how to darn our faded jeans,
And how to sweep the hen coop out.
But oh, the arrogance of youth,
When we condemned his solemn truth.

They found him by the river bank,
A large log lying in the rain,
Paralysed all down one flank,
Though thankfully devoid of pain.
And in the ward, he’d grasp the drip
And yank the needle from his arm,
His face a chalky mask of calm,
His fist an iron, wrench-like grip.
And in the fitful hours he slept,
My father hung his head and wept.

His wooden will prevailed at last,
Beholden to no living soul.
The priest’s dull words flew idly past
The coffin stagnant in the hole.
The cottage door hangs like a drunk,
With branches thrusting through the roof,
A pensive crow looks on, aloof,
Upon a nearby poplar trunk.
This crumbling house, up on the hill,
A mausoleum, dark and still.

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