David Lewis Paget (22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)
The Census Taker
He seemed to wander from house to house
A clip-pad in his hand,
The pen he carried was dredged from the Ark
Or was found in No-Man's-Land,
His beard trailed down and waved in the breeze
He was like an ancient scribe,
He looked like a flinty prophet from
Some wretched Biblical tribe.
I watched as he entered each garden gate
That swung on a rusty hinge,
Each creaked awake like a drunk, up late
After a late night binge,
He'd knock just once on each door, then wait
And visibly count to ten,
If nobody answered the door, he'd turn,
He just wouldn't knock again.
Then out in the street he'd shake his head
And cross a line from his list,
There seemed so many that he'd crossed out,
There wasn't a house he'd missed,
But nobody seemed to be up and about
On that misty Sunday morn,
I'd only got up when the sun peeped in
To fetch in the milk at dawn.
He came so slowly in through my gate
Then saw I was standing there,
He raised one eyebrow, up with its mate
And took in my morning stare,
‘What do you think of life, ' he said,
‘Do you think it's been worthwhile? '
‘It beats to death the alternative, '
I said, with a sickly smile.
‘This isn't a joke, ' he said to me,
‘There are thousands going to be saved,
But only a hundred and forty-four,
The other choice is the grave! '
I saw my name on his clip-pad then,
The final name on his list,
‘What about all my neighbours here? '
‘They've all been dispossessed! '
‘We've only room for a single soul,
And the ledger will be full,
It's not our fault that you bred like pigs
But the time has come to cull.
The planet's groaning under your weight
We're clearing it out tonight;
What will it be, are you one of us,
Or shall I snuff out your light? '
I woke up then in a sweat, and thought
It was just a crazy dream,
It couldn't be happening yet, although,
Nothing is what it seems!
I heard a knock at our old front door,
Leapt up, and grabbed for my gown:
‘Don't you be turning your back on me, '
I yelled - ‘What's going down? '
18 March 2013
Comments about this poem (The Census Taker by David Lewis Paget )
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