Better than this

By Jack Buckingham

It had all been written, documented in stone,
For his was quite a story, not so much
A fall from grace, as solid lead plummeting,
Fit for yarns and luscious gossip
Such that sustains a staff in transit,

The sudden chasm that splintered the beating heart
Of his marriage, that took his little son, their only child,
The monumental bouts of serious top-shelf drinking
That slipped in grade with his own degradation,
The time away to locate himself and straighten his life
And affairs, time only to mourn, moss on the walls
Of a lonely house of eerie negligence and silence,
His brief return, bewildered efforts to cope, the swansong
As it were, and the news like a final blessed release
From above of the terms of his early retirement.

A decade later, and with guilt to be admitted,
Seven long years since fruitless phone calls
And tentative doorknocks stopped from me,
We happened across each other, the concrete end
Near the bridge’s shade along from fashionable Southbank,
Much to his surprise and genuine joy, as if
We’d both fallen from the trees after hibernation.

For myself, I couldn’t help but notice the slur
To his speech, the war at work in his face, his eyes,
With the sparkle of the moment and a surging mirror
Of terminal dullness threatening exposure,
And the ill-fitting clothes in their odd assortrnent,
Far from the dapper head of department
He used to be, and we chatted affably by the bridge
With little gaps of memory, oddments to step around
Out of respect and care, as it had to be,
But all in good spirit, warm as I remembered him,
That at least had lingered on, and I was glad.

We parted with smiles and forceful handshakes
And no plans of further reunions.  Cheerily he said,
“Well, I’m jobless, I’m homeless, penniless and aimless.
Eh? From now on it’s got to get better than this.”

Return to Eastern Writers Home page