Down Among The Dead Men

flash-and-the-pan-down-among-the-dead-men

“Down among the dead men,” droned the song.
How could they get it so terribly wrong?
So sexist and so morbid too!
It clearly needs a whole redo!

We all know people will pass away,
And sometimes they get led astray,
But female persons all need inclusion –
“PerSONS! Don’t need that confusion!

People of the female kind?
Yes, that’s better, I think you’ll find.
“Down” – that word will never do!
There’s implication there, quite taboo!

“Down” suggests there must be “up”,
So please don’t drink that poisoned cup!
Paternalistic condescension!
No! Level playing field by convention!

“Dead” is clearly too judgemental.
It seems to me more incremental.
So, how would I rewrite that line?
It took some time to redefine:

“People of the non-female kind
Communing in peace and harmony
In a state inconsistent with being fully alive,
While affirming the choice of each
To abandon hierarchical stereotypes.”

(With apologies to Flash and the Pan)

Stephen Tomkins
Perth
29 October 2015

A Day in the Life….

The sun half-heartedly crawls out of bed
And very reluctantly slides overhead.
A veil of ice crystals is covering his face –
One more loathful witness to what will take place.

The Doctor now cheerfully strides down the line
Then gives me a wink to say all will be fine.
Through snow, slush and filth, still the railroad tracks gleam,
The train then appears, as if shrouded in steam.

The chill in the air has invaded my bones
And through the barbed wire, the icy wind moans.
When I ask my Sergeant what all of this means,
“Do your damn duty!” he angrily screams.

The train has arrived and the doors are forced open;
Out fall the people, exhausted and frozen.
With shouting and wailing, selection begins –
The Doctor continues to seek out the twins.

Oh! How did I come to be part of all this,
Since studying music was my source of bliss?
These people did nothing but sadly be born.
The fit and the healthy are stripped and then shorn.

There’s no way, it seems, to escape from this place
Without bringing me and my unit disgrace.
The air here is fetid and really does stink,
And I, when off duty, rely on the drink.

Stephen Tomkins
5 November 2015
Canberra

 Author’s note:
I would like to clarify that this poem is not an attempt to justify the actions of those who inflicted the Holocaust upon the world. They cannot be justified. Rather the poem is an attempt to find humanity where little, if any, existed.

Don’t Take Me For Granted

table

An old wooden table surrounded by chairs,
Fruit of the forest though now no one cares,
Hewn by a craftsman, unknown and unseen,
A tribute to skills now replaced by machine.

Left by the roadside, alone and forlorn,
The table is stained and the chairs are all torn.
A once-prized possession, it took pride of place
Near new, shiny kitchen with refurbished grace.

Convenor of gath’rings and meals to be shared,
Bearer of countless teacups and éclairs,
Witness to laughter and shedding of tears,
Minder of birthday cakes, nibblies and beers.

Silent observer of aging and games,
Patient companion of tapestry frames,
Insatiable voyeur of gossip and jokes,
Of lunch with the ladies and beer with the blokes.

A family member and once well-regarded,
Is no longer needed and so is discarded.
We’re just like that table, I’m sorry to say:
Once no longer useful, we’re left to decay.

But life doesn’t have to end on such a note,
I’m sure you’ll agree this is no time to gloat:
Old age is a lucrative business for some,
So please take the time to go visit your Mum!

Stephen Tomkins
27 September 2015

So You Think You Can Dance?

Ballroom-Dancers-Couple-600x475

Please take a chance and together we’ll dance,
The Bandmaster is playing our song.
Let us float to the beat on our fleet, nimble feet
And pretend, once again, nothing’s wrong.

Round and around the issue we’ll dance,
A Quickstep Denial we’ll choose.
We’ll smile and we’ll swirl and we’ll spin and we’ll whirl;
Other thoughts we will always refuse.

Now and then, we will bump ‘gainst a tail or a trunk
And we’re suddenly singing the blues.
It’s so pleasant to dance when one has half a chance.
In the ‘now’ it’s so good to infuse.

At last, we must rest, our fatigue manifest,
And revive on some ice-cold TV.
But we can’t linger long or we’ll sense what’s been wrong,
So we munch Prozac muffins with glee,

‘Cos we’d rather avoid what’s made life so devoid
Of all pleasure as friendships recede.
So we’ll dance once again and be stoic, strong men,
If that elephant doesn’t stampede.

Stephen Tomkins
2 September 2015

School Days

Where are they now? Those Golden Few
Who, ‘spite their flaws, no wrong could do.

Where are they now? Those blazing sons
Whose daring deeds would leave us stunned.

Where are they now? Those unafraid
Whose innate strength was oft displayed.

Where are they now? Those oh so cool,
O’er whom so many seemed to drool.

Where are they now? The insecure
Who, crushing us, sought their own cure.

Where are they now? They’ve disappeared.
On leaving school, my vision cleared.

Where are they now? Well, I’m still here –
I’m so much better than I’d feared.

Stephen Tomkins
20 October 2014

Update On The Current Situation

20141024_1458021

In light of the current situation,
I’m here to provide some information.
The rumour mill’s been running hot
But most of it’s not worth a jot!

Our bottom line will not be dented!
Our office space is newly rented!
We must uphold our company creed
So we can meet the customers’ need!

You’re worried and I understand,
But these tough times just were not planned.
We all must take our share of pain.
There’s really no one here to blame!

And so, you see, then, that is why
I’ve descended from on high.
You know that I would not be lying!
There’s little use in sitting, crying.

I hope, your doubts, I have allayed.
I’m sure, this week, you should get paid.
Thanks but I’ll be quite ok.
If things get bad, I’ll slip away.

So stand together, worthy band!
I knew that you would understand!
Together we can turn things round!
You know, I like the way I sound!

Stephen Tomkins
5 June 2014

Cecil

Zimbabwe Lion Killed

Cecil was a friendly lion,
Never harmed a living soul.
Didn’t stop a Dentist flyin’
In to seek his huntin’ goal.

He traveled up the Root Canal,
Noting his extraction point,
Cleaned and polished rifle pal,
Drilled with leaden needlepoint.

The tragic death of Cecil was
The catalyst for much debate.
Hunted down the Dentist ‘cause
His clients sought to litigate.

The death of thousands, strange to say,
Fails to register at all.
Unpeople, on our conscience, weigh
Hardly anything at all.

Stephen Tomkins
14 August 2015
Jakarta

Ebb and Flow

359286387-keleti-pu-concourse-hall-commuter-rush-hour-2

High above my boots and laces,
Bobs my own head up and down.
Swimming in a sea of faces,
One by one, they wear a frown.

To a soundtrack I’m conferring
Flows the tide of dark commuters;
Seething mass, their faces blurring,
Rush to serve voracious suitors.

On the train, the kelp is swaying,
Standing up or sitting down,
Random rhythm they’re obeying,
Heedless of the music’s sound.

Glowing screens lead all by ear,
Once more we travel to and fro;
Isolated yet so near,
Protected by my audio.

Stephen Tomkins
30 June 2015

I Don’t Understand

angel-of-grief-fathers-day-can-be-tough-for-some

Ten years ago my Mum did pass –
Like days not years, they’ve flown so fast.
Begrudge her leaving I could not,
She’d suffered and been through a lot.
But when she died, I was cast adrift,
Awash with turmoil, a paradigm shift.

And though, for me, the world had changed,
I felt I was now quite deranged;
Yet, flooded with unmanly grief,
I quickly stowed my handkerchief
And, ploughing on in stoic style,
I kept in place my phoney smile

While all around me, unabated,
Life kept on, accelerated.
But outrage is just what I felt
As my resolve began to melt.
How could things ever be the same?
Life proved itself a cruel game.

Stephen Tomkins
23 June 2015

It’s All About You.

Peoples-unity

Just what is a life from among so many?
A drop in the sea? Or a billionaire’s penny?
Would the sea really notice that one drop less?
Or the billionaire suddenly face distress?

Deluding ourselves is a popular sport;
‘Stead of facing the truth, it’s a pleasant resort.
Humanity’s edifice, complex and strong,
Is an image that couldn’t be any more wrong.

Though connected in ways unimagined before,
We live isolated, behind our locked door.
Fearful and lonely and longing for love,
Ignoring our neighbour, beseeching above.

Feigning indifference (perhaps it’s not fake?)
As some of us starve while the rest much on cake,
Demonstrates neatly my heart-breaking point:
Our fates are not separate, they’re clearly conjoint.

Stephen Tomkins
18 June 2015
Singapore