Misc ~ Gallery 2
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collateral damage
This painting is based on a poem by a british poet - Richard Skellington, a british poet
This painting is based on a poem by a british poet - Richard Skellington, a british poet
This painting is based on a poem by a british poet - Richard Skellington, a british poet
Goodbye Mr Read


Ninety two years young
Mr Read sat on his old
And very comfortable leather armchair
Switched on the table lamp
Stroked his grizzled beard
and sighed

His fingers fumbled for his pipe
Lost in the folds of his long white beard
Worn in memory of Merlin the Magician
Now stained with tobacco

And the daily diet of eggs and tea

An east wind rattled the panes of glass
The smoke drifted upwards
In arcs of blue grey light
Here in this home-made conservatory
Put together in retirement
Out of old sheds wardrobes and a creaking gate
He sat out the rest of his days

Does me good to see you dear boy
He said as I entered the living space
That was kitchen bedroom
Library and observatory

Here from dawn till dusk he watched
The birds in his Eden
And the goldfish glide
Between the lilies in the pond

I have twenty three sparrows this spring
Two more than last year

His eyes stared beyond the garden
And then in lost reverie he said

Oh yes, dear boy I remember
When I retired from the school
Every day was mine every day
No more timetables
Except my own
They were the best of days
They were indeed

I had a real water dog way back then
He followed me everywhere

Do you know
When I threw a stick into the old mill race
He would dive in whatever the weather
Even in snow and ice
And he always
This will make you laugh
He always always returned the stick to the very spot
Where I had stood to throw it in
But you see I had moved on

It always made me smile

Then silence
And the song of birds

Mr Read smiled again and rubbed his beard

Oh yes old Shep always made me smile

He paused and fiddled with his pipe
And gave a wise man’s shrug

A deeper thought appeared

Just like the children
Just like the King Street boys*

His mind was elsewhere now
Puffing his old clay pipe
Transfixed in memory
Of homework long ago

Now he was back in school


Down the glass corridors
The first school bell chimed
Among the playground throng
Of conker throwing boys
And then clink clink
The first distinct echo
It was a most familiar
Haunting sound
Heard by generations

Mr Read cometh
Be on your toes you boys

His hobnailed shoes left then right
Steps coming down the hall
Chiding and correcting
Even before he entered
The gladiatorial pit

Worn he told the staff room once
To let the blighters know he was coming

Assembly quick you boys
Bring the goalposts in from the rain
You’ll need them to wear for home
Jenkins please put Peters down
You boy don’t run
Quietly now in step
Go to assembly
In now run run

Inside the school hall
On the assembly stage
Mr Read stood tall and erect
To silence the boys’ morning song

He cleared his throat
And began to deliver
His last fable from the past

Thirty six years man and boy
Had stood there
In the early morning light
Shining through high arches
And now here they were
Eager faces dressed in new uniforms

He opened a book of poems and read
Slowly from one of Housman’s best

‘ Little is the luck I’ve had
And oh ‘tis comfort small
To think that many another lad
Has had no luck at all’

A long pause

Even the caretaker was here today

His deep voice spoke in kindly tones
Looking at the silent beguiled faces
Some he had seen a generation before
Boys hung on his every word

I taught your fathers
And your fathers’ fathers
Some I taught ‘tis true
Did have no luck
‘ Tis true no luck at all
But many did
And so I hope do you

Something perhaps you learned from me
Swayed the falling of the dice


He sat down
A few nervous coughs rippled across the hall

A boy with shiny satchel
Holding a brown paper parcel
Agitated climbed the steps

We wish you luck sir
He said and put the parcel
In his headmaster’s hands

Mr read opened it
The Origin of the Species
By Charles Darwin

Well well
How did you know
I wanted this
Thank you all
Thank you all
So much

The sound of boys clapping filled the hall
The gowned staff stood and applause rang
Down the corridors beyond the playground

And into the cobbled streets

Just like the children
Just like the King Street boys


And then he was back with me
Back from his hall of time

Old Jack saw the little boy again
He’ll be grown up now
Running a bank no doubt

He laughed and emptied
The contents of his tar-stained pipe
Into the pot of dead geraniums

And looked at the birds beyond the glass

His hands
Pock marked with the ravages of age
Looked down in his lap
And turned the pages of a book
Charles Darwin The Origin

Did I ever tell you about my first dog
It was a real water dog that dog

He said

*King Street was the boys’ entrance to his school, the girls entered through the adjacent Queen’s Street

Collateral Damage

Death came in a whisper
To the rag dolled girl
In the field of rocks

One arm outstretched
The hand twisted
She appeals
To the last drop of humanity
In a deaf world

My blood is your blood
See it here splashed
On rock on field
She cries

Her staring eyes accuse
Remember me
I have forgotten I was ever born


My wasted life
It lived it laughed
Like yours

I had known only love till now
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