Enemy Squadrons

Down our driveway waft
enemy squadrons of invisible
fungi spores bombarding
my garden, my neighbours’
motley leafed maroon and
green pittosporums, the
demure viburnum out the front.

Armies are entrenched along
the front hedge surrounding
the little front lawn; blotches
of curly leaf, powdery and
sooty mildew severely oppress
those poor sad dulled leaves.

The front flat’s gardening man
was outraged when I asked
if he sprayed the depressed
overpowered hedge. (It remained
defeated, overpowered
after he had gone.)

That spring I sprayed the gardens,
the hedge. Lush foliage spread
upwards and outwards all along
our drive. The viburnum
crowded out its front garden.
In summer the bees returned.

Now the gardening man is
far more frequently trimming
rampant vegetation around
our front flats.


Previously posted September 2017.

Enemy Squadrons

Two Young Lads

Two young lads, ten and six
carried Dad’s bags down the
lane to the horse drawn tram
running along the main road.
Mum sent him away for he
drank all his wages, left nothing
for his children or new baby.

After his illness the doctor
had prescribed for this fine
husband upstanding church
man, that standard remedy,
stout, to build up his health.

Working in that colonial town’s
port office everyone saw his
shame, her humiliation, Now
he would sail the Pacific on
trading ships, die far away.

This devout church woman
swallowed her pride, went to
the mayoress’ committee for
the indigent, accepted their
charity until her sons’ wages
supported them all though
it stuck in her craw to beg.


Previously posted September 2017.

Two Young Lads

Sickly

Before World War I our Dad was
born sickly. retained little food.
“Arrrh !” said Uncle Jimmy
“they’ll never rear that one !”
He told the family often, Dad’s
siblings reminded him too,
baited him as he grew stronger
throughout his school days.

Lean and wiry, he survived
long weeks on naval rations for
six long years of World War II
…… scant limited rations.

After war’s end he mostly ate
plain food, no sweets, cakes or
biscuits, no ice cream or fruit.
Sometimes he craved fried foods,
on Friday nights out with his
mates he ate fish and chips,
pies and fritters, then made
long dire sounds in the toilet
at home, late at night.

At 87 Dad wanted to tell
Uncle Jimmy he was still
alive, but Uncle jimmy
had passed away at sixty
such a long time ago.

Some of Dad’s grandchildren
and great grandchildren have
serious dietary disturbances.
Was he lucky to survive ?


Previously posted September 2017.


Sickly

Night Time Phone Calls

From city to town to city
I moved over the years,
“Our address books have
so many entries for you !”
friends and family exclaimed.
Some of them moved often !

I used to visit long distance
now energy and funds curtail.
Instead I travel in cyberspace
on skype and long distance calls.

Late night chats strengthen long
time bonds as we talk of those
we know, share our news, come
up to date with each other.
Children, grandchildren, funny
moments in daily lives, sadness
and grief for those around us,
genetic time bombs taking
us by surprise.

So we build each other up
take strength from those
late night network connections.


Previously posted September 2017.

Night Time Phone Calls

Handwriting

My newly purchased town
house stood on its back section
in newly built splendour.
Its letterbox read “114A”.

After unpacking, settling in,
weathering Christmas and
new year, my rates bill
was truly overdue. The
council office was puzzled
on the phone, so I took my
documents to their offices.
A senior man checked their
records, assured me
my number was … “116A”

In those days of handwritten
documents over thirty years
ago a hurried “6” could
become a “4”. We agreed
that this had happened here.

If I change my number
again, I said, my mail will
all be “returned to sender”.
At the council Man’s
suggestion I wrote a
letter to the council.

One month later I was
officially …… “114A”


Previously posted September 2017.

Handwriting

Bathroom Window Sill

Toothpaste shower gel shampoo
line up along my bathroom
window sill with the bath plug
to remind me that I bought them.

My previous bathroom purchases
were forgotten all tucked in
around the large pack of toilet
rolls, boxes of hair dye, packet
of razors jammed in against
the outlet pipe in the tiny
cupboard under the hand basin.

Now they all stare at me
as I enter the bathroom.
I know I won’t forget them.


Previously posted September 2017.

Bathroom Window Sill

Son Of The Household

As his ward raised in the
elderly bachelor lawyer’s
house brought up by servants,
the boy was clothed, fed,
attended church and school
well brought up in nineteenth
century Calvinist Glasgow.

On his seventeenth birthday
he was put on a ship to
New Zealand forbidden to
ever return to Scotland on
pain of severe consequences.

For he was the son of a house
maid and a wealthy mill owner
client, bred of Hogmanay’s
celebratory tipple.

Kirk and parish condemned
the breeding of illegitimate
brats, demanded unwed
mothers name the fathers
for financial support. No
question of marrying the
house maid. The mill owner
satisfied minister and kirk
elders by paying the boy’s
keep to the lawyer.

They kept his name out
of the parish register.

On his seventeenth birthday
the boy sailed away to the
ends of the earth for ever.


Previously posted September 2017.

Son Of The Household

Tenant Farmers

From the stony barrenness
of northern Scottish soil
its young landless sons
signed on for mercenaries’
wages in neighbouring
Europe’s frequent summers
of hand fought battles.

Until the fateful 1850’s when
Europe stayed home each
summer except on distant
Russian borders. The landless
sons now brought no wages
into Scotland but looted
tenants’ subsistence farms,
such as remained after
landowners’ clearances.

Family men went down onto
mines until depleted seams
closed down. Starving
highlanders crammed into
rundown tenements seeking
desperate sparse employment.

One by one Agnes and her
five sisters with husbands
and children crammed into
sailing ships for three
months, started life again
toiling on the distant soil.


Previously posted September 2017
.

Tenant Farmers

Gumdiggers

On sunny Adriatic shores
on picturesque villages, vineyards,
stony farms, vegetable gardens,
the ancient Ottoman yoke
sat heavily on its poverty
stricken people as the conflict
loomed that would shatter it.

At first families, villages
joined to pay fares for their
menfolk to seek fortunes
abroad until later uncles
sent home fares for nephews
to join them, then later again
young girls for brides.

In the southern reaches
of the vast Pacific
they laboured for riches
digging up fossilised sap
for varnish, and polish
working long hours in
cold muddy swamps.

Scorned by other settlers
they toiled on resolutely.
In time their hard work
freed them to buy land,
plant vineyards, orchards
market gardens, set up
shops for their produce
in a prosperity unknown
in their beloved homeland.

* “gum” was the fossilised sap of ancient
fallen kauri trees later covered by vast swamps.



Previously posted September 2017.

Gumdiggers