Monday, November 1, 2010

Tuesday Poem: The Pensioner

The Pensioner

A whiff of treachery, the body’s reluctance
to get out of bed in the morning. There is
reason to feel nervous about the outcome.

Not death, that is certain, but the trip to it.
Even cautious encouragement, the promise of
bacon and creamed mushroom on toast,

takes time to override its resistance. Recall
misty autumn mornings out early with bucket
& knife, picking field mushrooms, & the awe

at rings, fairies don’t exist they said, … but still…
the sun a pale corona through the fog. The jaunt
through the asphalt world has had its moments,

exotic brilliances & conspiracy corridors, but.
finally, feet, recognising the opportunity while
the mind’s woolgathering, swing over & out.

Lights, camera, we have action. Trousers etc.
It’s the loss of poise that irritates. Against that,
all that bother about face is of much less concern.

Harvey McQueen

I wrote this poem several years ago. My illness was already progressing but it had not been diagnosed – I thought this was merely the onset of old age. So I sought comfort in what positives I could find in the circumstances.

Why ‘asphalt’ people have asked. Derived from oil the symbol of mobility of my generation. Roads, runways, tennis courts, school grounds, it’s defined my life. Film has also assisted that process. Hence the true comedy of trousers. It merged on slapstick. Plus, ‘asphalt’ is a harsh word, a contrast to the fantasies of childhood – mushrooms, nothing in the paddock yesterday, suddenly in the morning March mist there are dozens. My stepfather, Dick, insisted we leave a few to spore for another season.


  1. Harvey, I enjoyed the power in this poem, which is in part its cataloguing (not sure if this is the right word becausee the poem is far from being a 'list') of loss of power, juxtaposing that with nostalgia but also humour--and just a nice touch of irony, given all that cultural bother around 'loss' of face.

  2. My favorite line:

    "Not death, that is certain, but the trip to it."

    Love its ambiguity, and the truth it speaks.

    And the lack of fussiness in "Trousers etc."
    makes me laugh!

    Thanks, Harvey