The Wash

Douglas Dunn

Hogmanay Again, Michael Russell
So much time wasted wanting to be remembered
Ends with desire to be forgotten,
As one chirrup absent from the dawn chorus,
An unclaimed seat in the theatre,
A volume missing from the library shelf.
Ambition determines you, then trips over itself;
But I was never a self-lover, or a self-hater.
Is it age that creates this feeling, to bore us,
Or twisted self-knowledge gone rotten,
Or dreams allowed to be dismembered?
I look at the Spring’s predictable daffodils
Bugling yellow silences, snowdrops and crocus
Already gone, fritillaries a-bloom,
Tulips, bluebells and others still to come,
And summer’s lilies, lupins, and roses.
And all the rest of them, florals and edibles,
And all the rest of botanical hocus-pocus
In seasonal wonder, marguerites, delphinium,
Periwinkles to be pressed in a slim volume,
Honeysuckle, marigolds, whatever Hortus proposes.
It all depends on the luck of the weather,
As everything else does, in a sense,
And everyone.  It all comes out in the wash?
Hmn.  But it could be in someone else’s favour,
With the gale and the sleet in your girning face.
Better off forgotten, like scorched heather,
Your weathered and withered intelligence,
Your talent thinning like hair, maladroit tosh
Set down in a notebook as if to savour
Another stab at despair and disgrace.
It’s odd how ambition stumbles, and falls,
As the young overtake you, with a pat on the back,
If you’re lucky, a smile from over the shoulder.
I did that too.  Or I suppose I did.
No harm intended; it’s just the way it is,
The way of the world, with its doors and its walls.
Is this all because I’ve no Muse in my sack?
I don’t feel like Sisyphus, I feel like his boulder —
Something used, or abused, for a task that’s not ended,
That won’t be, and certainly not with this.
So, fall off a barstool swigging your hemlock
For what we have here is perseverance’s tedium.
The bowler’s seven feet tall and very fast,
Their striker kicks like a camel and you’re in goal,
Their scrum-half’s fleet-footed as destiny.
Don’t worry. Your reputation’s safe with me,
Old pal of mine, shadow, my friend, old chum.
How long does a book, or sheet of paper, last?
If the answer is hundreds of years, does that console?
Go early to bed and outstare the clock.