Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Ghost Story OR Work Ethic (A Cautionary Tale)

Regular readers will be aware that my interest in ghosts and a posthumous consciousness contribute to other themes in many of my poems, especially later ones. 

Now, I have seen people put in hours (and years) of unpaid overtime in various occupations for precious little thanks.  The cost to the worker in terms of family and social life, not to mention his or her health, is immeasurable. 

It may well be a sweeping statement (a general truism all the same) but the more a worker does, the more management is likely to let him or her do until such a time as it no longer suits management, for one reason or another.

We all try to be conscientious at work, but there is such a thing as overkill…


Over a period of years,
I could never help but notice
the slim, shadowy man
always waiting at my bus stop
never caught one

None of my business
of course, but eventually I asked
(pretending to care)
just what on earth he thought
he was doing there

He flung me a sad grin,
‘Well, no need to catch a bus,
been dead a good while...’
‘You're a ghost?’ I even managed
a wry smile

His laughter was kindly
(no cause for fear) ‘I love meeting
buses, watching faces
heading home, see lights coming on
in their eyes…’

‘I read between every line,
(the love, the strain) observe them
glance at their watches,
cursing time for its never taking

‘It's all there - behind
the eyes, polite smile, creased brow;
hope, love, fears,
laughter, doubt, like a shopping bag
of groceries…’

‘It's the lonely ones
who really get to me, chasing a trail
that never ends;
so many good people, too busy even
for family and friends."

‘Rich or poor, famous
or an anonymous face in the street,
needs must…
family and friends first, the work ethic
a worthy second best…’

I asked him to read my face
with some misgiving. He chuckled.
‘No need. Who has time
for a ghost has a lot to make up for
to the living.’

I'd been working late again,
and after chatting with the ghost
I wondered all the way home
which one of us was truly dead or alive
the most

Years on, same bus stop,
(been partying, and had a skinful)
my love and I saw someone  
talking to the wall, and passionately
wished them well

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2014

[Note: An early version of this poem appears in 1st eds. of Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books,2001; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.] 

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