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Blog - Richard Downes

642 Meets Whistling Jack in the Wasted Lands

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642 Things To Write About instructs that I write to a house plant telling it why it needs to live or something like that. But I am on my holidays. I am south of where I usually live and that can only mean my annual meet up with Whistling Jack.

642 Meets Whistling Jack in the Wasted Lands

Barry mounts his tourer on wooden divots
Opens the door
Takes out his steps
Steps inside and returns
Staking out his moat
With pot plants
In the sunshine

Tomorrow Barry examines
Gender Politics
By hiking a short skirt
Over sturdy walking boots
He is on Ancestry UK
Looking for his roots

Barry sits on a sun lounger
Taken like his pot plants
From his tourer
Removing his smart phone
From a shirt pocket
He calls the house next to his regular home
Please look after the house plants
The key is under the brick
Next to the welcome mat
Tend the garden – if you can

Walking to the church yard
Barry inspects the names
Finding one deviating through time
But not so far from his own
He bends to pick weeds
And listens carefully for a forlorn tune

Pick, pick, pick, dead head
Note the dates
Write them down
In a pocket book
Taken from the short skirt
Investigate associations later
Imagine way back then
Explore the tree and all its branches
Listen not for Jack’s death tune.

-0-0-0-

On the way to Jack’s Lands
The Devine Cafe becomes ramshackle
Honeystreet’s Barge Inn is gone
The Bridge Inn , West Lavington, closed and gone
Times change. We change. And yet we linger on
This is the week within the coming fortnight
That I begin to spot the changes within
And yet I call on Whistling Jack to strike up a tune.

-0-0-0-

It seems Jack is building up defences
Making it hard for us to reach him
Ruins and rubble
Road closures
Volume of traffic
Air pollution
Higher charges
We reconsider our way inland
Think about a pincer movement from the north
With an approach from the sea landing at:

Coleton Fishacre
Sugary Cove
Great Maddison Sands
Gara Rock
Or from Dartmoor, descending from the top of the world
Jack we doubt your whistled tune

-0-0-0-

Dutch Data Analysts
With an hankering for magic
And power vogels
Analyse criminal codes
Test models
And bank up ever more data streams
Whilst Jack only ever looks for coincidence
Holiday reading, 1969, chapter 2 ends on page 42
A new one starts on page 43
Same day, the centre bus stop hosts 42 and 43
One goes one way
The other goes another
Jack meets a crooked insurance salesman
Ramping premiums up to 420 or 430 for one thing
4,200 or 4,300 for another
Jack considers the meaning of this
The Dutch girls ignore it
Believing pagan practice is more alive here
Than it will ever be there.
The data is in

-0-0-0-

So we travel cross country crammed with information
Taking care to step over all remaining bones
Ignoring our instincts to gather them up
At last, for festive food or ritual

Arriving south we start
To select bodies
Based on behaviour
That may be marked already
By the arch whistling fiend

Young David hurries by
Swears he saw Jack smack
A table to crack
A road earth quaked
By sea storm
As smash leads to crash
A car belly up
Beached in sand
Four passengers mangled
Seat belt strangled
The coroners line
The official line
Printed in the locals
Denies young David’s proof

-0-0-0-

Sweet Nancy Muffin
Knows and sings
All the parts from Bart’s Oliver

Like the Nancy who inspires Muffin
Dallying a while with Bill Sykes
The Muffin was said
To be to Jack’s taste
Meeting David
Meeting Nancy
Meeting with fact
Meeting fancy
We heard of those
Who met the villain
But never heard his forlorn tune

-0-0-0-

“Dahlias, Petunias”
Barry raises a heavy mallet
Muttering more plant names
The mallet now above his head
He crashes it down
Driving a stake into the ground
“They’d best not kill my babies this time”
Nancy hums a familiar tune
“Who could spoil”
David dives into the 7th wave
The dutch wonder about their data stream
No one hears Jack’s air
Jack is becalmed
His usual targets
Not stirring usual hatreds

-0-0-0-

The heat is off
The sea reflects green
Frothing with envy
For the shore
The stability it craves
It had hit the road
Out of exasperation
To see what would happen
Folk around here say
“Jack is more sea than sand
And like the water
Protects the land”.

-0-0-0-

A strange calm is on the hams
Neighbours wave at strangers
Strangers feel at home
Though their homes remain distant
Maybe Barry’s plants remain at risk
The sun beats down
Linguists pronounce the day balmy
Balmy sounds like barmy
Barmy thoughts return to Jack
And his becalmed one man barmy army

-0-0-0-

The poet is in the arena
The people in their zones
A beach fire burning
Beneath the brighter burning stars
A quiet settled on the retirement village on the hill
A new rumour regards Jack
Says Jack was not a man of war
Cynicism has exploded
All is still
All is quiet
All is peace

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