A Little Perspective, Please

Seeing myself quite so dead on the bed 

Has certainly changed my perspective. 

“Take care of your health” is what I’d always said, 

But it turns out my heart was defective.

It’s a little too late for such drastic resorts,

Still they zapped me with 10,000 volts.

Though I’m grateful they’re thinking such positive thoughts,

I’m now just a bucket of bolts.

“Death comes to us all” as old sayings contend

Though he shows us such open contempt.

Some struggle and fight making bitter their end

As if fighting will make them exempt.

Now, I must say farewell as I start to ascend –

I’ll soon have such stories to tell.

A cool summer breeze whispers, “Welcome, old friend”,

So I feel now that all will be well.

Stephen Tomkins

25 June 2017

Hong Kong

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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

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

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