Monday, 22 June 2015

Longevity

Dengue fever (pronounced "dengee") was, and still is, a killer in Africa and other tropical lands.

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A young and dusty robin, grub in beak,
Beneath a holly bush upbraided me;
With rufus breastplate here was no meek 
Retirer but one who might proudly be        

A stalker with Achilles at Troy’s walls;
So at least the pert thuggee seemed to me.
But here’s a point: in battle he who falls
Falls young, and blind nature indifferently

Culls its creatures in their prime; even so,
Patroclus saw manhood before the thrust
Of Hector’s spear despatched him, but this tyro
With his braggart ways will sunder in dust

Before a twelvemonth, torn by injury,
Scabbing disease, starvation or stuck through
With the fox’s tooth; if there’s progeny
That’s enough. Yet encaged this bird might view          

Fifteen years and more, plump-fed and watered,
Even if with a sorry mind it tug
At its bars, yearning for the sky sauntered      
With cloud, and the risk of life met with a shrug. 

What lesson’s here: man, his life in his hands,
Creaking across oceans in tubs of wood
And rope, or battling dengue to settle lands    
And pile up grain, weltered in bile and blood

But now stutters between chairs on shaky legs  
Counting eighty years and rising. Untold
Pills and “intimate care” infuse these dregs
Of flesh with a half-light life, bald and cold.        

Consider the men: would furious-eyed
Achilles, if he’d aged, have mocked himself
With “leisure wear”? With shapeless multi-pied
T-shirt, baseball cap and gaudy faux-wealth

Floral shorts? Such grinning rotted infants!
With dewlaps razor-nicked and strengthless hands,      
And mind-charred days in care homes sucking mints,
Redundant are the sea-rinsed, gull-proud strands;

Argos on his dung heap might pity them.
Surely it’s best to scorn all drugs and scans,         
Gulping tablets and reading runes in phlegm,
Refuse that milky caution which unmans      

Man? Instead to seize chances though they claim 
Lives young, live in the wind at the wave’s crest,      
Exulting like Patroclus, dead in fame,
And this cantankerous robin redbreast.  

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© July 2013

 

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