A Blessing and a Curse

My little compendium would hardly be complete without two “working” poems which some may have seen in my “other-worldly” publication, Four Minutes Past Midnight.

They each serve a purpose.

The first was written in the original hand of my Great great great Grandfather, and fell out of his old prayer book almost 200 years later, to tell me something. So now I’m following instructions, “do thou repeat”, by telling you!

The second is a protective curse, beyond my own grave,  warning would-be pilferers of the consequences of their own actions, should they wish to “cash in” on my (bequeathed) collection of rare family records.

BLESSING

I say to thee, do thou repeat
To the first man thou mayest meet
In lane, highway or open street

That he, and we , and all men live
Under a canopy of love
As broad as the blue sky above

And ere thou leave him say thou this,
Yet one word more, they only miss
The warming of the final bliss

Who will not count it true that love
Blessing, not cursing, rules above
And in it we work and move

One thing further make him know
That to believe these things are so
This firm faith never to forego

In spite of all that seems at strife
With blessing, all with curses rife
That this is blessing, this is life.

CURSE

Know this:

‘Twas Kilgour sweat these records formed
Which, mixed with blood and ink,
Impressions cast and lives adorned
To forge a mighty link

Try break this chain, it can’t be done
Without sore price to pay
When nothing but dishonour’s won
Forever and a day

Who dares to rob, to trick, to seize
Such avarice shall cost
The one thing you most dearly prize
Will be forever lost

Worse; he that would these works destroy
His very soul condemns
To Satan’s brand of misery
Til Doomsday makes amends

Their destiny’s in Kilgour hands
Right to eternity
As long as waves still lap the sands
Let these ‘Impressions’ be

The Kilgour Curse

Captain Kilgour and the Curse

Right there

Just dusted the cobwebs off this one too … a poem I wrote for the occasion of my late Granny Vee’s 90th birthday. (She died aged 102).

The greater family had converged on my cousin’s farm in Winterton, Natal, to attend my gran’s birthday party on August 15, 1992. I had written this poem – I suppose it is a bit la-la like – and rendered it in calligraphy, then framed it. (I believe it looked a whole lot better than it sounds.)

At the appointed time during the proceedings that afternoon, I reached behind a curtain and removed the large gift-wrapped picture frame to hand to her as a surprise. (Also secreted behind the curtain was a packet containing the funniest smurf-like rubber face mask you ever saw – for later jollification).

Well everyone was very inquisitive to see what the parcel contained, jostling and pushing forward as my gran tore open the wrapping. Then she removed the frame and held it up, resting it on her lap for all to see. “My eyes aren’t so good any more, you read it for me, my boy”, she said.

I hardly had to read as  I already knew the words by heart, but I went through the motions as I recited my poem. This allowed me to glance at my grandmother’s face from time to time. Then I noticed her eyes well with tears, and huge teardrops rolled shamelessly down those powdered, wrinkled cheeks. Looking up, I saw that this was having a chain reaction effect on the audience. Tears were splashing down all around, and there was a furtive scrambling for tissues and hankies. Frankly, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Thinking fast, I blurted out: “Gee I didn’t realize my poetry was that bad!”. My hand shot behind the curtain and I grabbed the packet with the funny mask, which I put on immediately. The mood swung instantly. Now I was confronted by a howling throng, slapping their sides, and whose tears had changed to tears of laughter, rolling uncontrollably down their cheeks. (My own tears were hidden by the mask). The situation was hysterical, if I may say so.

RIGHT THERE

(For my beloved Grandmother on the occasion of her 90th Birthday
at Noodhulp Farm, Winterton – 15 August 1992)

Ever since I can recall
Through seasons as they rise and fall
Through times of sadness, times of joy
Yes, since I was a little boy
You’ve been right there for me

No firmer friend nor Beacon bright
Could ever match your guiding light
No golden coin, no earthly, price
Could pay you back for your advice –
You’ve been right there for me

Memories flood life’s diary book
With picnics and the snaps you took
And times we thought were sent from Heaven
Like Christmas at Two- Seven- Seven
You were right there for me

With Pa you travelled far and wide
Until he parted from your side
Then family could be counted on
To rally round and keep you strong
You stayed right there for me

Thank you for the cards you sent
The letters and the time you’ve spent
The book you wrote, the thoughts you shared
For showing me you really cared
You’re still right there for me

The talks we’ve had, the love you gave
Are treasured moments that I’ll save
No matter how the die is cast
I know as long as time doth last
You’ll be right there for me

Love,

Bruce

SIMILAR FUNNY MASK

A similar funny mask, though not nearly as funny-looking as the one I used that memorable day.

Paper Love

Love is in the air

LOVE IS …

 

The original copy of this little poem, handwritten in illuminated calligraphy on scented parchment, was presented to my lady. Who knows what became of it although I still have my calligraphy pens!

PAPER LOVE

Imagine we are making love
Upon this scented sheet
Beneath the soft lamplight we move
Between these lines we meet

Now feel the rhythm of my pen
My urgency to write
The words I long to whisper when
I hold you close at night

Until at last the ink like blood
Explodes inside my veins
Unpunctuated feelings flood
As ecstasy proclaims!

In afterglow of passion spent
This paper to the touch
Reminds you of the love that’s meant
The kind that spells so much

Bruce

 

The same in any language

LOVE

Ringside Seats

Those of you who read my blog:  “Virtualstampmania” will already be familiar with my attempt to compare the different personalities we meet in life with circus characters, as follows:

RINGSIDE SEATS

Watch closely now
The passing parade of life and how
The various performers take their bow

The clowns are easiest to spot
They make us laugh, embarrassed, hot
More often than we admit, or not

Then come tamers of the lion
Their charges caged in bars of iron
Cracking whips, make others whine

Jugglers wearing crowns of kings
Skilled at throwing balls and rings
Manipulate so many things

Trapeze artists who make us fret
It’s life itself they dare to bet
Without a line or safety net

Conjurers whose amazing tricks
Make money vanish and, for kicks,
Your golden rings, and building bricks

Escape artists: masters of illusion
Rely on alibi, timing and confusion
To add to your life’s great delusion

The acrobats of great ability
Do mental flick-flacks with agility
To question your mind’s own fertility

Now who is left, come let us see
The watching crowd … it’s you and me
By far the great majority

We need entertainment for the day
To get our money’s worth we say
But there’s a certain price we pay

If we won’t get our own feet wet
Someone else will put up posters yet
The show goes on – that you can bet.

circus clown

Ode to Garda and Graham

Here’s a bit of fun.

Seemingly in competition with  “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”, this tongue-in-cheek spoof of “boy meets girl” was intended to mock a fellow young colleague in the corporate work environment during the 1970’s.

But I don’t think my efforts were appreciated ….

ODE TO GARDA AND GRAHAM

One sunny day at Mutualpark
Beside the glittering pool
Lazed Garda Holmes in scanty garb
A-trying to get cool

With knees exposed, and feet quite bare
She stirred the water sacred
And though she roused a thousand stares
She wasn’t all that naked

From amongst the crowd two lenses trained
Upon the maiden fair
They didn’t peep though they were aimed
But donned a glassy stare.

They stared and glared, and glared and stared
Until the damsel noticed
The unrelentless scanning eyes
Which seemed quite out of focus

Her leisure time having been quite spent
She gracefully arose
The eyes that seemed never to relent
Beheld a striking pose

The artist to whom the eyes belonged
As if he’d eaten lotus
Followed where the people thronged
So that nobody would notice

He shadowed her with stealthy pace
His disposition nervous
Until at last she reached a place
Called Unitholder’s Service

There upon a stool she perched
And glanced around in vain
When into the room a figured lurched
And stared at her again

Graham was the artist’s name
Though this he would not say
The nearness of his new found flame
Had put his thoughts in disarray

“Pray forgive the way I stared
Down by the pool” he stuttered
He garbled on a few more words
And all the rest was muttered

Your profile is most interesting
To a man of art, he lied
And that is why I stared at you
Down by the waterside

He ha-ed and hummed and hummed and ha-ed
‘Til finally it came
Your photograph I wish to take
And sign it with my name

Her consent she gave with hidden glee
Yet asked the man Kilgour
If he approved photography
Within the working hour

No! No! cried Graham
Who was taken quite aback
His plan was going down the drain
When nearly in the sack

To do this thing I must have time
And preferably at night
I could have spun another line
Though next time I just might

Where do you live you gorgeous thing?
I really wish I knew
Besides exposing negatives
I might expose you too!

Cautiously she told him
Whereabouts she lived
Now she often wonders
Why on earth she did

When off he sauntered from the room
Smothered by desire
He began to hatch a wicked plan
To quench his passionate fire

 

Mutualpark, Pinelands

Mutualpark, Pinelands as it was back then

WWII Despatches from Sidi Rezegh

Foreword:

The Battle of Sidi Rezegh Immortalised through Verse

My late father never once related details of his wartime experience to even his closest family. He must have had his reasons although I can’t help feeling that invaluable personal experiences have passed on with him “to higher service” as his M.O.T.H. comrades might say. However, he did leave behind a comprehensive record in the form of a wartime log, plus notes, personal correspondence, photos and press cuttings. I consider myself fortunate in being able to piece them all together to reconstruct his entire military career for posterity.

Some of the revelations I have chanced upon reinforce yet again the irrepressible spirit that is often associated with men under the most catastrophic wartime circumstances immaginable. One such discovery (also proudly recorded in the anals of South African military history) is a poetic account, by author unknown, of the Battle of Sidi Rezegh on Sunday 23 November, 1941, taken from the Wartime Log of my late father, Bombadier R V Kilgour who was there with the 3rd Field Regiment S.A.A.

SIDI REZEGH

(With apologies to the 5th S.A. Infantry. Brigade)
It was upon the fateful twenty-third
That our brave “Pongoes” pledged themselves to die.
They were equiped with bows of gwarrie – bos
And flasks containing “Gin”, “Chateau” and “Rye”.

Scarce had they dug themselves into the sand,
When they were jumped by Rommel’s bugle band.
They were amazed and wist not what to do
So fled into their burrows deep and true.

Up spake their leader B F Strongi-tharm,
Who quaked lest his brave boys should suffer harm,
“Up every archer”, “Bend your bows”, quoth he,
“And we will make these Aryan mongrels flee”.

The bows were bent, the arrows, forth did hum,
And quaking Huns were pierced through the thumb!
Alas! Our archers were behind the times
They’d not yet heard of Gerry’s 109’s.

Up looked Ray Kilgour the archer blonde and bold
And spake “Ker-rist” what’s this I now behold?
What kind of bird is this with whirling head
Which from its nose sprays streams of red hot lead?

And lo! another kind of bird I see
Who from her stomach throws her eggs on me
A hideous square tailed fowl with zig-zag wings
And belly tightly packed with grievous stings.

Still nearer came the wildly clanking band
Tan steeled chargers through the desert sand
And soon those rapid shooting bowmen found
That they’d been duped and ringed around.

‘Twas sure the hand of fate had crooked dealt,
And wracking heartache on that day was felt.
“Those gallant archers”, said some Airforce wag
“Had thrown themselves into the Axis bag!”

And now they’re all reclining in the land,
Where Mussolini rules his jackal band
Each cursed day they moan their cruel fate,
And say they also serve who simply sit and wait.
Postscript

An article by Leslie du Plessis titled: “Sidi Rezegh – A name and a day to remember”, which appeared in the Johannesburg Star, 19 September 1966, corroborates not the “flights” of poetic fancy mentioned above but rather the courageous events which gave rise to them.

“Afrika Korps panzers shot like a great arrowhead of steel at one lone brigade”.

“Men without tanks to help them then hurled themselves at the merciless monsters”.

“The Springboks stand at Sidi Rezegh is comparable with the immortal two days stand of the South Africans against the Germans at Dellville Wood – Smuts”.

Here is an illustration accompanying the original poem in my father’s wartime diary:

Battle of Sidi Rezegh - Libya, North Africa

The Battle of Sidi Rezegh, South of Tobruk, 23 November, 1941

Umtentwini Beach

The following poem records a state of deep despair and confusion I experienced in the wake of my marriage collapsing in 1994.  I had travelled alone from Cape Town to Durban in a desperate effort to keep my emotions in check, for I was ready to commit murder. My wife had eloped with another man and my entire world had suddenly collapsed. I had felt cheated, targeted and betrayed. Never before had I experienced this level of defeat. To deal with it, moment by moment, I turned to nature, calligraphy,  art and writing as a means of self- distraction. I drew comfort from the fact that, at least, these few simple pleasures remained faithful to me during the worst time of my life.

I penned this poem (blank verse) on the evening of January 12, 1994, after returning from a day on the beach at Umtentwini, on the South Coast of Natal, while the imagery was still vivid in my mind.

Umtentwini Beach

My first day in the sun
for years it seems
dressed only in black trunks
sitting quite alone
at home
on a driftwood log
gazing out to sea
beyond jagged outcrops
at the murky windswept breakers
that churn the South Coast shores
I’m protected up above of course –
my floppy hat and tinted shades
provide a measure of bravado –
allowing the rest of me to remain exposed
to a calmly baking sun
which somehow lacks the same intensity
as Cape Town’s microwave
Actually, most of the “rest  of me”
is also covered
by a thin film of UV5
to keep the skin and me alive
for what?
only time will tell
for life is as wildly unpredictable
as the ocean now before me
but it has its small compensations
like the warm, reassuring feel
of sun-baked rock
beneath my elbow
A friendly, healing warmth
that seeps into the soul
And when I turn to face that mighty orb
of brilliance overhead
I close my eyes and watch
fascinated
as a kaleidoscope of bright leafy images
play across my eyelids
in Cinerama style
causing me to gasp in awe
until at last the rays begin to bite
more passionately
and I, having turned full circle twice
slowly, like some elaborate,
self-propelled spit-roast
must consider myself done;
So reality returns
and like everything in life
you can take only so much
and no more
I retrieve my shirt
and leave with sunny thoughts
a kiss upon my cheeks

Driftwood on the beach at Umtentwini

Umtentwini Beach, South Coast, Natal, South Africa