I decided to rip the fabric of habit.
In my appetite to stray from the routine
Where I was free from fears, scars and doubt,
Watching waves roll in,
Watching customers come in,
I struck a hornet’s nest
With Mother’s rusty gardening hoe
And ran for the hills like a Neanderthal
Just to feel
The primal excitement
That the newspapers never delivered.
Our parents came from soil.
They struck the ground with iron, raked the earth with metal,
Planted carrots, green beans, rhubarb and fennel
And left behind the oil.
Not once did they come home with clear skin.
It was caked in dirt, brown and raw, all to feed their kin.
Even their hoarse voices, that herded cattle and sheep,
Could become butter soft when they soothed
Their children to sleep.
“Rest now to rise up. Rise up and early!
We can still see the stars in the morning.”
We were different. No muck, no mud.
Instead, our hair was combed
And our fingernails were clean and cut.
Big Apple weekends, smoked salmon,
Cream cheese and chives,
In famous expensive restaurants
Where the rich were televised
To our living rooms, to our kitchens.
Our employment history wasn’t in the ground
Nor in the woodwork or land.
It didn’t give us shade,
But only told us
How many cards we punched,
How many nights we slept,
How much money we made.
There’s no sparkle here.
Only in streetlights and neon signs.
Our pewter skies are too exhausted to shine,
They are coughing, clogged and charred
Because our stars wear sunglasses
And are driven down boulevards.
Our parents came from soil.
We came from concrete.
Back for the day to share this piece. It’s been in the poetry oven for quite a while and not sure where to go with it – if anywhere!
If you were ever looking for the shortest poem that spoke the loudest, it might just be this one. The piece is one that is known by many – however, if this is your first time reading this poem, you surely won’t forget it.
Pound encompasses our fears in one, short stanza. Life is fleeting. Keats similarly touched upon the subject and it’s heavy and haunting; there’s just not enough time to complete our goals – whatever they are. Time escapes us. As poets, as writers, it’s a feeling too familiar that although there are thousands of ideas we have in our heads, it means nothing if it isn’t written down.
For me, this poem is the epitome of the wake-up call. Whatever it is you want to do in life, whatever it is you want to achieve, whatever it is you want to become, it requires work, it requires time, and you have to start right now. Turn off the television, put down the book, finish your pint. It motivates me in wanting to not only shake the grass but tear them up from the roots, salt the earth behind and let everyone know that Nesbit was here.
— — —
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass
Well, bless the boy who broke the chain!
Escaped the life of picking grain
Erased the old and putrid stain
Of not living his life.
He drove himself, persisted through
And flew over the oceans blue
Fulfilled the need to start anew
And found himself a wife.
They’ll buy a farm with cows to breed,
Dig up the earth and plant the seeds,
And work until their fingers bleed
To build and grow.
“Now when my son is ripe of age
Controls his life with adult gauge
And asks to leave, to turn a page,
I’ll let him go.”
Yesterday, I saw the strangest familiarity of my Father in a brown pigeon.
Not in his appearance, however. Father was not feathered.
Instead, he was thin, brittle and as cold
As the pale blue walls that surrounded him.
The half eaten apple, browning on the inside,
And the full glass of water wasn’t a mirror of the man
Who used to devour steak and drink black stouts.
This wasn’t his environment, neither. On Fridays, we chopped wood together
For the fire inside. We’d sit beside it where he proceed to dominate me
In Scrabble and Risk.
The only foot he set in here before was for my birth.
Despite the tube from his neck and tags on his wrists
and the frighteningly low numbers on the board at the end of his bed
Which I tried to pretend weren’t there,
His spirit was like the olympic torch. It wouldn’t go out.
He still managed to lighten up the room with humour and
Make the other patients laugh.
He still gave me the best advice for playing rugby and verbalised
Winning tactics through his toothy grin.
He still flirted with my old mum and brought colour to her cheeks
With soft kind words and quotes from Keats.
The pigeon I saw was, for whatever reason,
Walking in the road against highway traffic,
Each car narrowly missing his tiny head that
Kept craning forward with each step he took.
Father was marching like that.
Both of them a ferocious tidal bore against the current.
It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing
In two months we’ve lost some of
The best actors
The best writers
The best musicians.
It seems the gravedigger never puts on the forceps
In between shovels of dirt and mud and misery,
But the gardener waters budding flowers for us
To garnish our tables and nurture our kin.
There’s life in those roots that are plucked from the ground
And even more so when they’re put beneath it.
You hope to inhabit Byzantium.
It trumps the stone cottage, the green mossed walls,
Earl grey tea, cold biscuits, the morning news:
Your Scrabble friend just died shovelling snow.
You don’t know who to say goodbye to next.
Family is coupled with Christmas, they’ve
sat you down, had the talk, signed the papers.
“Who gets the cadillac? Who gets it, Dad?”
The soul would sing and clap and dance but the
Hands ache, holding onto the wooden cane
That supports the man ready to be earthed.
But I contest what the old poets taught.
This is a country for old men! They, the
Whiskey drinkers, hardened thinkers, who still
Share the load with Atlas, breaking their backs,
Shredding shoulder muscles, still weak and sore
From when they carried their kin to funfairs.
Pour gasoline onto the dying light!
You’ve got miles to go before you sleep!
There’s weight on those two trunkless legs of stone.
It’s a Darwinian body above,
Hardwired, ripe with age and character
And it breathes and it speaks and it’s writing.