A Spot of Light Relief

Today’s post has been specifically requested by a reader in response to my concern that a blog about chronic illness might get depressing.

Eighteen months after becoming bedridden I woke one morning with a rhyme in my head:

the policeman chased him fast and fleet,
the crowd joined in with pounding feet.

It had once been common for me to wake with half-written poems in my head but it hadn’t happened in such a long time.

I was intrigued. Who was the desperate outlaw the policeman was chasing? What terrible act had provoked such a hue and cry? For days those words sparkled in my mind like vibrant jewels in a normally colourless place. They made me smile. They elevated my life to something more than just survival. They were the first obvious sign that my cognitive symptoms were starting to improve.

Over five or six weeks a poem took shape. I painstakingly typed just a handful of words in a day, using a Dictaphone when I couldn’t type at all. I later learned of another young woman with ME, Jessica Taylor, who has no use of her arms and literally paints with laughter. I have always painted with words not brushes and this poem was born from the kind of laughter I never thought to find in such a desolate place. It may not be the most profound poem I have ever written, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.

The County Fair

One morning at the county fair
years ago when I was there
I saw a crime I hope I never
live to see again – not ever!
There were many rides, and games and races,
the sun shone down on smiling faces,
but then amidst the thrill and laughter
a heinous act spelled out disaster.

Upon the stroke of half-eleven
a lad aged maybe six or seven
reached into a baby’s pram,
grabbed her lollypop and ran.
The baby’s wailing pierced the air;
people stopped and turned to stare;
Mr Roy, the fire chief,
shouted, “Someone stop that thief”.

The policeman chased him fast and fleet;
the crowd joined in with pounding feet.
Stalls fell over with a clatter,
causing goods to roll and scatter.
The mayor tripped and scraped his chin;
the baker shook his rolling pin;
the big brass band made quite a noise
and children pelted him with toys,
but undeterred the brigand ran;
“Come and catch me if you can,”
he shouted and the crowd went mad,
they’d never seen a deed so bad.

Along the busy thoroughfare
they raced with neither thought nor care;
down the hill and round the bend
their only thought to apprehend
the ragamuffin who had dared
to spoil the day, so long prepared.

A few broke off from the main pack
and headed down a different track
thinking they might overtake
before he reached the nearby lake.
They got there just in time to halt
the boy from getting in a boat;
“We’ve got you now,” the postman shouted,
the townsfolk scowled and railed and pouted.
The butcher reached to grab his shoulder
but stumbled on a slippery boulder.
The boy sneered as he turned to flee:
“You’ll never win, you can’t catch me.”

He swerved past Ralph and sidestepped Matt;
he dodged past Ethel, dislodged her hat,
but tripped up by the vicar’s daughter
he tumbled *SPLASH* into the water.
The grocer and the local vet
pulled him out all dripping wet;
his mother ordered “Bring. Him. Here.”
and dragged him homewards by one ear.

The hapless boy, his earlobe red,
was spanked and sent upstairs to bed,
where he missed the food and pony rides,
the dancers, jugglers, clowns and slides.
The baby meanwhile, got another
lolly from her kind big brother
and soon forgot her nasty scare,
that morning at the county fair.

© S. R. Gilligan, 2007

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This entry was posted in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Spot of Light Relief

  1. Frances Wookey says:

    Hi Sarah! I love this poem! Your mum sent me the link to the blog a couple of weeks ago, but we were without our internet connection for nearly 6 weeks, so I’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do. I think that your other posts are very moving and thought-provoking. I’m so glad that you’re feeling well enough to do the blog, and hope that you can manage plenty of other things as well now. Janice has kept me up-to-date from time to time with your progress, and you’re often in my thoughts and prayers.

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