Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Banker


Gay or straight, human nature is much the same world-wide. I dare say a good many of you can count at least one or two fair weather friends of your own. Maybe they might even recognise themselves in what I have to say on the subject although I doubt it.

Now, my mother rarely had a bad word to say about anyone and would put herself out for just about everyone. But I recall how she once referred to one of her closest friends as a vampire. I was curious. She told me that some people are only after what they can get out of a friendship, and when they have taken their fill they will waste no time looking elsewhere. So why bother with them, I wanted to know? My mother shrugged. ‘When people need you, what choice do you have but to be there for them?’

True enough, when we moved and it meant making an effort to stay in touch, the friend soon dumped my mother for someone who was more convenient, and we never saw her again. I was angry on my mother’s behalf, but she took it in her stride. ‘Yes, some people can be very hurtful,’ she explained to boy Roger, but they can’t help it. For them, it comes with being human just as some of us were born to be hurt.’ She said this without a trace of bitterness although she was clearly upset.

I, too, have suffered my share of vampires. Not any more. There comes a time when you have to escape their clutches or go on letting them hurt you. They are not horrible people, just thoughtless and self-centred. Neither are uncommon traits, but only human albeit aspects of human nature we much prefer to gloss over. 

Fortunately, though, I have also inherited my mother's spirit of endurance, especially while I have to deal with side effects of treatment for my prostate cancer. For now at least, yours truly is putting himself first. Even so, if a good friend has a problem, its mine too, and I will help as and when I can, not least because another trait from which I try to take a leaf from my mother's book embraces yet another of her frequently repeated sayings; how we reap what we sow in this world.

In recent years, I have experienced various health problems, not easy to deal with when you live on your own. Fortunately, too, though, I have some good friends, including some wonderful neighbours; they have rallied round and given much-needed support. My mother's adages have frequently come to mind, also a much-quoted wry comment by the poet, Robert Frost: "A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain." 

This poem is a kenning.

THE BANKER

I come as a friend,
yet in time you will realise
I feed on
the milk of human kindness
and will drain it dry
any chance I get, even where
it leaves a trail
of hurt and pain I’ll never
turn to see

I speak as a friend,
yet in time you will realise
all I say
turns on all I am, and you
count for little
alongside my needy ego;
even though
I mean no harm, I will
wear you down

I know all the excuses
that spring to mind whenever
challenged to give
thought where thought is due,
but I have little for you
for where would that leave me
but unhappiness,
one straw less to help
keep me afloat

Friend, indeed, am I, like sunshine,
but look for me not in pouring rain


[From Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012.]

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