Hi. You're at my blog where we mess with poetry. It's about what I know - life at sea, family, work, the searching, people and the sometimes quirky side to existance. Also study of those who have influenced me - Australians - Slessor, Bruce Dawe, Robert Gray, Lehman, and others - Robert Service, John Masefield, Elizabeth Bishop, Auden, Kipling, William Carlos Williams, Bukowski. Hey, so welcome and just drift.
wanting to post this well known poem by Charles Causley for some time.It’s called, Timothy Winters.I love the
poem for a number of technical reasons – the rhyming, a four feet five feet
rhythm and a voice that I guess is Cornish (Charles Causley came from
Cornwall), so it makes you want to recite it in your best British accent.Then there’s the entertaining sense of humour
and the nice hook at the end, ‘come one
angel, come on ten: Timothy Winters, Lord.’
Causley was a schoolteacher, and this poem certainly stands testimony to the
belief that if I am to be a poet I should write about things I know or have
observed.Well, OK, about the things I
know, as well as what I have considered toward my observations, together with
what my emotional response is to them.I
think that’s how I’ve come to select Timothy
Winters for this post. I’m
thinking how society treats people wrong sometimes, especially from lack of
justice within our social systems.We
all have a built in sense of what is fair and of what makes something wrong –
sometimes we need reminding of it.Here
in our news in Sydney we have public outcry from the parents of an innocent
young boy who was walking with his girlfriend through the city when he was
‘king hit’ and killed by some thug who went on attacking other victims on the
same night.The thug received a prison
sentence of only four years on good behaviour.I know revenge is not a part of justice, but I feel for the parents – at
their faith and trust in the system and how they can’t help feel they’ve been
and duped by the system – the legal system, the political system, the welfare
system.Poor Timothy Winters, needing all the help in the world makes social
justice and the school’s prayers of petition look like a joke when he, “roars ‘Amen’!”
(Charles Causley – 1917 to 2003)
Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.
His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.
When teacher talks he won’t hear a word
And shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the pattern off his plate
And he’s not even heard of the Welfare State.
Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren’t boys like him any more.
Old man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier,
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy’s dosed with an aspirin.
The Welfare Worker lies awake
But the law’s as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.
At morning prayers the Headmaster helves
For children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars ‘Amen!’
So come one angel, come on ten:
Timothy Winters says ‘Amen’
Amen amen amen amen.
Timothy Winters, Lord.
reading, this poem may appear to be a swipe at Christian belief, a mockery of
religious process, a suggestion that the Lord is powerless and blind to
reality.But I don’t think that is what
the poem says.If it is a swipe, then it
is a swipe at one individual’s (the headmaster) and the system’s (school)
blindness to recognize that there is already one among them who is in immediate
need.Yes, Timothy Winters roaring ‘Amen’ is a joke but it is a joke on the
system that goes through a ritual of morning prayer yet never thinks that it
should bear true witness.
read much of Charles Causley.He was an
English poet, born in Cornwall.He served in the Royal Navy during WWII so he
must have been a decent sort of bloke and because of that I’m keen to read more
of his work.
I wrote my poem for this post some time ago.It comes from what I observed in the press,
my consideration toward that situation and my emotional response to it, which
was a sense of injustice and social misunderstanding.I don’t know, a lot of times I can’t help but
feel for the underdog no matter what shit he’s in or what he’s done.Don’t let the bastards win man!
2000:Listening to the news, I couldn’t help but
feel the anguish and hurt of a man in a hopeless situation.
What About the Man
snatched his son
him to a warehouse
had been living there
a custody battle.
to set fire
himself and the boy.
said there was a smell of fuel in the area.
had to surround the factory with a SWAT team,
We’ve had a
tough few weeks here in New South
Wales with early hot, dry summer conditions and out
of control bush fires.Australia is
well acquainted with the fury, tragedy and loss from huge fire, unstoppable
fire.We have a network of Rural Fire
Service (RFS) volunteers who answer the call to give up their time and risk
life to fight these fires and save property and life.Whenever, wherever there is an outbreak and
the yet slow boiling brown white smoke in the distance agitates dread. To when racing flame becomes visible metres
above bursting tree tops leaping and licking to grip onto the living with fear.We were lucky this time not to have anybody
lose life in the fires, only property destroyed - more than 100 houses.One of the landmarks near where I live
somehow survived.There’s this roadhouse
at LakeMacquarie that has a big prawn out the
front, fabricated, painted and stuck on top of a tall pole.Everybody knows the landmark and refers to it
as the ‘big prawn’.You give and receive
direction by following the ‘big prawn’, “just past the big prawn mate and then
turn left”; “wait for me at the big prawn”; “if you pass the big prawn then
you’ve gone too far”.Well, the service
station buildings are totally ruined, but that old ‘prawn’s’ still standing.And people talk about it as if the ‘prawn’
was all there ever was, “did you hear the big prawn servo got burnt out?No mate, it’s OK, the ‘big prawn’s’ still
fresh experience of fire and the hero status of the survivor have drawn me to
post a favourite Les Murray poem.It’s
called, Cotton Flannelette and it describes
the agony of a young girl so badly burned that the country doctor has given up
on her.Only through the unsleepingabsolute mother’s persistence (in
the untrained perfect language) and her own plea to shake the bed does the child bear the pain, survive and live to
carry terrible scarring, Braille tattoos
and contour whorls.Like a lot of Murray’s work, this poem is
written from part experience.Les Murray
had an aunt (Myrtle) who had suffered terrible burns as a child.I’m not sure if he knew how the accident
occurred, but Les recalls seeing his aunt when he was a small boy and wondering
about the scars that covered her exposed skin.
Les Murray (1938 – )
the blackened child whimpers,
the bed! Through beak lips that never
will come unwry.And wearily the iron-
framed mattress, with nodding crockery bulbs,
jinks on its way.
Her brothers and sisters take
shifts with the terrible glued-together baby
when their unsleeping, absolute mother
reels out to snatch an hour, back to stop
the rocking and wring pale blue soap-water
over nude bladders and blood-webbed chars.
Even their cranky evasive father
is awed to stand watches rocking the bed.
lids frogged shut, O please shake the bed,
her contour whorls and Braille tattoos
from where, in her nightdress, she flared
out of hearth-drowse to a marrow shriek
pedalling full tilt firesleeves in mid air,
are grainier with repair
than when the doctor, crying Dear God woman!
can save that child.Let her go!
spared her the treatments of the day.
the bed.Like: count phone poles, rhyme,
classify realities, bang the head, any
iteration that will bring, in the brain’s
the melting molecules of relief,
and bring them again.
Nibble water with bared teeth, make lymph
like arrowroot gruel, as your mother grips you
for weeks in the untrained perfect language,
till the doctor relents.Salves and wraps you
in dressings that will be the fire again,
ripping anguish off agony,
and will confirm
the ploughland ridges the gum joins
in your woman’s skin, child saved by rhythm
for the sixty more years your family weaves
on devotion’s loom, rick-racking the bed
as you yourself, six years old, instruct them.
To me, it’s the repeat of the plea, O shake the bed; rock the bed; please shake the bed, that conveys
the sheer agony a young burn victim must have suffered in the period when Les
Murray’s aunt Myrtle was a girl.I can’t
help wondering how it happened.The clue
is in the title, Cotton Flannelette,
and the lines, ‘in her nightdress, she
flared out of hearth-drowse to a marrow shriek pedalling full tilt firesleeves
in mid air.”The girl has fallen
asleep in front of an open fire (hearth
drowse) and her nightclothes, pyjamas have heated to ignition point.She has run and waved her arms in panic and
fanned the flames even more (pedalling
full tilt firesleeves in mid air).Suddenly bursting into flame in front of a fire was not uncommon in Les Murray’s aunt’s time and
even up until the 1980’s.I can recall
strong warnings about sitting too close to the fire and what to do if I did
catch on fire – drop and roll, drop and roll! In later years, manufacturing standards tightened
to ensure children’s pyjamas were made from fire resistant material.Cotton flannelette was one material that must
have had a low flash point.
My own poem for the post was written many years ago. It is from the country, is from
experience and is from fire – not bush fires, but cane fire, back in the days
when they used to send a raging fire through sugar cane to burn off the leaf
and tops prior to hand cutting.
1980.Growing up around Pinnacle in the PioneerValley surrounded by sugar cane and all
activity of it’s farming.The setting
conjures back sweet emotion, but I could never have been a farmer.