It looked like it would stomp any minute
trumpeting in terror from being woken
after all these years.
What had we done?
What if it went berserk?
Trampled on our good intentions?
Pooped all over the room?
[Have you ever seen elephant poo?]
Or, worse, collapsed on one of us like a slab
I remember Uncle Bert.
He had had a stroke.
His mouth was always open
Though he never spoke.
He sat on his armchair
Alongside Aunty Pat
Who did the speaking for him.
She was good at that.
He once looked a film star
A Gable or a Flynn.
And often charmed the ladies
with a rakish grin.
But then one day he emptied
and forever after that
Loyal as a labrador
he followed Aunty Pat.
What’s the first word you’re going to forget? The first word that’s going to slip through the sieve in your brain?
The name of your partner, child, grandson?
With me it was an item of food.
A breakfast food we eat once a week on Wednesday. I knew it began with ‘c’ and that it was a French-sounding word like ‘croutons’ but it wasn’t that.
I could have asked my partner but I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
I did not want to acknowledge that ‘the forgetting’ had begun.
Then after a week it came to me in a flash, like the click of a thumb. I wrote it down on a pad with a marker pen just in case but I needn’t have bothered.
Now I enjoy my croissants that little bit more.
It’s Carol’s 70th so we have to go and I know what’s waiting for me as soon as we rock up. The Test! My partner doesn’t have to submit to it, nor do the younger males, only the senior ones. Each Xmas, Easter, special occasions, he waits for me. Bone-crusher Bowden.
We lock eyes, hands like deer lock antlers, while my partner settles down to chat..
He grips. I grip. Harder. Tighter. Grimace. Grunt. Grin. Faces redden. Eyes almost pop. “What are you men up to?” the women say. Then one of us weakens. It’s always me. He was a wharfie. I was a teacher but it’s getting closer. He’s losing his edge.
I’ll get you next time, I smile. Not on my watch, he says. But he doesn’t know. I’m working out at the gym. Can’t wait till Xmas.
[written in 1986, the day before]
I will hold your hand
The comet passes over
And I will guide your young, young eyes
And show you its starry path
Across these Southern skies
“Look, that is the comet”
And you will stare in wonder with me
And perhaps we will never be
This close again.
And I will say,
“Look closely. One day when you
Are very, very old
You will tell your children what it was like
On this day”
And they will hold your hand
That day in 2061
And ask you,
“Did grandma and grandma see it with you?”
And you will shake
Your tired old eyes
Though we will long be dust
Like a comet’s tail.
I am reading an annoying little novel called ‘To The Lighthouse’.
I am on page 138 and they still haven’t got there — though they talk about it a lot: whether they will or they won’t and on what day they should venture forth? It is always the weather.
Hamlet, if he were written a few hundred years later, would have loved it. He was a ditherer too. There’s even a skull he could have addressed as ‘Alas. Poor Yorick’ though sadly it belonged to a sheep.
I’m getting tired of these people. They need a cattle prod applied to a certain part of their anatomy — though it may be it is not the book for me. I didn’t much like ‘Hamlet’ either.