Thursday, 5 November 2009

When Will We Learn?

And so, to the final poem from EH7. Last week, two Scottish men were sentenced to life terms for their part in a child abuse ‘conspiracy.’ On the same day, the nursery-worker in England was reported to have named some of her victims. Now the sluice of trauma is opened up for parents of victims and the children alike. I wonder what the student in this poem (written over a year ago now) would have made of that?

The nursery nurse doesn’t have a ‘dick’ to be strung up by. So much for a culture that claims respect for its elders; blind obedience to authority has its problems too. I suspect that in our society, crimes against children incite such fear and loathing because, perhaps, we do not know how to respect our youngers.

As the flood continues through the gates, while the seraphim prevent our passage to the Garden, we remain trapped between eternity and God’s dissolving promise. As for me: I fixed the broken washer on the dripping tap. Unfortunately, the flat above mine did not, and my spare bedroom has been subject to its own diluvian purges. Tonight, I will watch the flaming spectrum over Meadowbank, and remember all the sopranos I have loved - and the friends who have stuck by me this past year.

When Will We Learn?
for a friend, indeed

“No experience is wasted” said the Nigerian
Student, who insisted on calling me ‘Sir.’
“According to my Bible” he added, then
Quoted me Chapter and Verse.

By ‘his Bible’ I’m guessing he means
the one that he believes in. Mocking BBC RP,
I give him a favourite proverb from mine:
“A nagging wife… is like a dripping tapp.”*
In apparent deference to his elders,
the polite man, sunk by hook and line
Concurred: “There’s plenty of truth in that.”
It wasn’t at this point I lost respect for him.

Once he said, “That man” (- the Austrian whose
Daughter was holed up and banged up for years
in a cellar): “Should be strung up by his dick.”
“And in which part of your Bible does it say:

‘An eye for an eye?’”+ He replied, “I don’t care:
I’m a Christian. That man is sicker than sick.”
And there was I thinking Onanistic Catholics,
not retributive justice, made all men blind.

In a pub at the Foot O’ the Walk, the rain
pelting the pavements, filling the drains
that masquerade as roadworks: ‘essential
maintenance’ for the superfluous trams…

This is how the weather works in our
Micro-climatic City. Tonight, there was
a milky light and a sunset rainbow
stretched from Leith to Craigentinny.

But the air felt as soggy as a warm fish supper,
“Salt ‘n’ sauce on that.” The heavens opened. I sat
with a pint of English Beer – Bishop’s Finger
if I remember right – when God turned on the tap,

evaporated the promised prism,
plunged us into darkness and floods,
Washed the streets with sin’s original
Guilt. Nothing is wasted? What optimism

Sent the flashing swords of Seraphim
Forking the Firth of Forth as the storm
made its way north to Fife? Tomorrow
the air will be purified clean and bright.

The memory of this downpour will melt,
Dissolved like the proverbial Scotch Mist.
Not long now before the next display of
Coloured Lights will fill the Edinburgh Sky.

I wandered home, thinking I must phone
a plumber in the morning. The God of
Floods and Thunder and a worn-down
washer is out to teach someone a lesson.

* Proverbs 19: v.13
+ Deuteronomy 19: v.21; & Matthew 5: v.38