David Lewis Paget
When I was a child, in the Forest of Dean
We would play 'hunt deer', like a King or a Queen,
We would hide in the forest 'til the sun went down
Then hurry off in terror from old man Brown.
He lived in the forest in a house on a hill
And he wore torn shirts and a hat of brown twill,
He carried round a gun that he fired in the air
When he saw us picking berries in the trees up there.
He lived with his sister who was Emily Maude
Who had never even married, she was much too odd.
To impressionable children, a frightening pair -
He with his shotgun, she with her hair.
For her hair blew wild, neither brushed nor combed
And it flew all over like a witch, old crone,
But she loved little children, so our parents said,
And warned, 'stay away, 'cause she's soft in the head! '
On All Hallows Eve we were up in the oak
Like brave Robin Hood, I was dressed in a cloak,
An old green scarf that my mother threw out
That I thought was impressive as a camouflage coat.
There was Jock, Jim, Sandy, then Elaine and me
We were up in the branches, in the boughs of the tree
While down keeping watch was Ashley on the ground,
Getting tired and sleepy as the day wound down.
So it was, she never heard the old man come
But soon, there he was, and was carrying his gun,
And Ashley was caught by the collar of her coat
While the sounds of her screams just died in her throat.
He lined us all up and marched us up the hill
At the point of his gun, and against our will,
And he said, 'Aunt Emmy's set you up for a treat,
For it's All Hallow's Eve - so, all you can eat! '
He marched us to the house, in a cold, dark room
We could barely see each other in the dark, in the gloom
Then he sat us at a table with a stained veneer
And he called, 'Hey Emmy, all the guests are here! '
She slid into the room like a wraith from a mist
And we all jumped together for she scared us to bits,
But she said, 'Now, children, there is no need to fret,
Tonight we'll have a party with the best fun yet.'
She took young Ashley by the collar of her coat,
'You come along with me; you can help me with the joke,
Then she brought a dozen apples and a dunking pot
And we all dunked for apples if we wanted to or not.
She lit up all the candles in the pumpkin faces
Grinning in the dark from their hollowed out cases,
Old man Brown, he hurried out the back,
We heard him in the kitchen going clack-clack-clack.
Then we ate sweet cakes with icing on the top
And a bowl of green jelly that had quivered, non-stop
'Til she brought in scarves and tied them round our eyes,
And said, 'Now children, here's my little surprise! '
We're going to play a game called Admiral Nelson
I used to play it once with my Granddad's stepson,
I'll pass you little pieces of Nelson as we speak,
Tell me what the part is - and don't you peek!
She started up a chant in a high-pitched tone
While we sat in the darkness with our blindfolds on,
She sang a little story as she passed each piece,
Then we had to feel it, and it felt like grease.
Stick him in a pot,
Cook him all up
'Til he's nice and hot,
Take him out and feel him
Steady as she goes,
See if you can pick
Lord Nelson's nose.'
Jock was the first to hold out his hand,
'It's like a little button, too small for a man!
I bet it isn't Nelson's, that's what I think! '
He passed it on to me; I agreed, with a blink.
'Poke him in the eye
That's covered in a patch,
Standing on the deck with
The Master of the Watch,
Try and feel the stump
Of his arm in a sling,
They took it off at Tenerife,
Feel that thing! '
Something heavy landed on the table just then,
'I think it's his eye, yuk, it's full of cold cream.'
Elaine started squealing - 'I must be going home,
I hate playing Nelson, and this silly pome.'
Then I felt something that was warm and wet still
Like skin torn from an arm or a leg, 'til
The end of the skin was the splinter of a bone,
Was it Nelson's shoulder? Well, who would have known?
Lying on the deck,
Hit by a musketball
Right by his neck,
Feel something sticky
That's coming in a flood,
All across your fingers
Nelson's blood! '
Then there were footsteps, Brown from the kitchen
Tipping out a pot of soup or something else with bits in,
Splashing on our faces, we'd all had enough,
We all jumped together - pulled our blindfolds off.
And there was Ashley, staring at the ceiling
Just the head and neck, and it sent us all reeling,
Pieces of her arms, flayed down to the bone;
We shrieked and we scattered, and we galloped on home.
'And Doc - that's all I can really remember,
I was just a kid then, Ashley was my sister!
About this medication now... when can I stop?
And why's all that blood dripping down your white smock? '
8 April 2009
David Lewis Paget's Other Poems
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