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Poems
Short Shrift
(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

Short Shrift

‘I’ve failed! ’ How many times have sons
And fathers’ fathers echoed me?
‘I’ve failed! My life was spent in dreams, ’
We said, ‘in shallow misery.
In dreams and steel and soot and grime,
In screams, and what would seem some crime
Of trying to live beyond our need...
Our lives were spent in some black creed! ’

‘Too short, too short, the days we spent
In trying to right the days before,
Too long, too long, the years we struggled
Knowing not what struggled for.
What goal, what aim, what discontent,
What loves we lost, what life we spent
In wondering what such life could be?
Short shrift for you - harsh words for me! ’

‘I’ve failed, my sons, I’ve failed you all
And so my failure tortures me,
As in that innocence divine
Your love loves all the failed in me.
If I could strip this flesh, or tear
These eyes that cried hot fire for you
To save you from the same despair
My father’s father brought me to...’

20 July 1976

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