Pen Kease

Lessons
 
The first lesson was how to make a straw [1]palliasse 
so you had somewhere to cry for your mother. 
 
The second, how to bayonet a straw man
as though he was real. 
 
The third was to fight for a whole cow’s liver,
pipes and all, wrapped in bloodied newspaper
while the cooks looked on, took bets, and laughed. 

Family Legend
 
She took his hand – her handbag slid down, hit him hard
like a brick. Her other held her Woodbine, untipped, alight.
Look at this. He watched his mother
wave an arc of smoke across the front of Temple Meads 
station, in all its mock-mediaeval, Victorian grandeur.
We’d be alright If it hadn’t been for that silly-born-bugger. 
 
In 1831, the nobs voted ‘no change’ – crafty buggers – 
it meant they could buy their way in and rule us hard.
He got drunk that night, full of his own piss and grandeur– 
got angry and shot his mouth off, set the mob alight.
Typical of our lot. We’d have owned Temple Meads.
He watched her in her shabby coat, his mother
 
somehow, she was different from the others.
A lean and garrulous woman, fond of saying ‘bugger’,
unlikely to this lad she’d ever own Temple Meads
although, true she had a certain metal, was quite hard.
You know they went and set the bloody town alight,
he was at the mob’s head in all his grandeur
 
waving a top hat on top of his umbrellal – what a grand
gesture that was. The fool. At that point Dad smothered
any thought of truth, although hope remained alight – 
a rumour to tell his children. Silly buggers
if they believed it though. Life’s too tough and hard.
Whoever heard the likes of us owning Temple Meads? 
 
It was just land before the railway, Temple Meads.
Trust us to have illusions of our own grandeur, 
he’d say, believing rubbish bragged by idiots drinking hard.
‘It made no difference to my mother,
It was the thirties, she believed it all back then. Silly bugger.
Later, he wondered if she’d ever been enlightened
 
as to the facts about Queen’s Square, set alight:
men found the cellars of grand houses, burned them, no heed
taken of the drunks already there. They lay blistering – poor beggars. 
The law was no better. Not justice, but rage and rancour.
No-one saw among the bleeding, the children and their mothers
when the soldiers galloped in, slashing left and right, hard.
 
That’s what no bugger understands. There’s no glamour – and slight 
truth – in this hard story. Did they confiscate Temple Meads
when he was hanged? More like a grandiose myth, told by my grandmother.

Pen Kease © 2019