Monday, 3 June 2013

Through a Glass Darkly or Uncomfortable Truths, Angels with Dirty Faces

An earlier version of this poem as first published in the anthology An Immortal Truth, Poetry Now [Forward Press] 2000 and subsequently in my first collection the following year.

The original version was written in 1984 following a discussion with several peers about how awful we were sometimes when we were children and how, whenever we look in memory’s mirror for those halcyon days, maturity invariably summons certain regrets that, in turn, cause cracks to appear...

To see “through a glass” (mirror) darkly” is to have an obscure or imperfect vision of reality. The expression is usually presumed to have come from the writings of Paul, the Apostle who suggests that while we may not see clearly in the Here-and-Now, we will do so at the end of time.

Whatever, many if not most children, may well know right from wrong, but lack the experience maturity brings to imagine the broader consequences of either. 


In a pretty side street, tree lined,
its children playing hide-and-seek
make plenty din enough
to wake the dead, the old man says
who lives on the ground floor
of an end house whose shiny steps
such fun we slip, towering wall
a thrill to squeal and climb, knowing
yell and fuss, but by the time he’ll rush,
no sign of us

Waving a stick, he’ll bawl us out
and we’ll mouth him back, but not until
the door slams shut. Oh, but kids
at play make no excuses, just din enough
to wake the dead, the old man says,
treading the ground floor of the end house
whose mossy steps so snug we sprawl,
graffiti wall a joy to lean, grubby curtains
a-quiver at our kissing or could it be for all
he’s missing...?

Children gone, traffic enough
to wake the dead, the old man said
who lived that shabby room
whose crabby gloom we never spared;
brave wall, a sorry spread,
no curtains (windows boarded up instead)
ghosts playing hide-and-seek
with eternity facing a bleak affinity
for wings circling the last tree left standing,
cracks in a mirror appearing

 Uncomfortable truths, a cruelty enduring...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2011

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