Thursday, November 5, 2009
The old man stoops, working in his garden,
his past lies living in the bottom drawer:
the old things stored there reveal, long hidden,
the dangers of the life he lived before.
An old squeezebox, hexagonal and brown,
still plays a tune, as once it did in France,
where brash young soldiery relieved a town
of wines and virgins at the local dance.
With gloved hands he squeezes smoke from the cone:
a few stragglers cling to the waxy comb,
while others circle angrily and drone,
about the slatted hive that is their home.
At playtime, the children come out of school:
they do not trespass on the well mown lawn,
'stay on the strip of flagstones' is a rule
the lame teacher, his daughter, has laid down.
Meanwhile, in the drawer, a shoulder belt
and silver flute suggest an earlier tale,
perhaps in South Africa on the Veldt,
than the Fields of Flanders or Paschendale.
In the garden, he ties up runner beans,
puffing on a well chewed pipe, he decides
to spray the roses next with nicotine
against aphids before he goes inside.
He leans closer to the battery wireless,
pencil and sports page ready in his hand:
his horse finishes but without success,
he stumps out to the music of the band.
Old magazines, beneath some well-worn sheets,
the Pink'un and La Vie Parisienne,
hint at past wartime fun in foreign streets:
precious memories of a younger man.
The bell clangs loudly and the children scream:
the old man returns to his lost Eden
away from the throng he resumes his dream
of prizes for the best local garden.
At the back of the drawer dully gleams
a battered Jew's harp, its crude iron bow
once twanged by the light of falling star-shell beams
in bloody trenches under winter snow.
After a cup of tea, some bread and braun,
equipped with trilby hat and walking stick,
the gardener heads to toc-H in the town,
where a brown ale or two will do the trick.