JOHN’S CHRISTMAS 1992
He chapped the door of all our rooms
’round four o’clock that afternoon.
Diane, an agoraphobic
depressive said she heard him knock
but couldn’t answer. Martin
spent his Saturdays losing lines
at William Hill’s. I caught the 4:15
for Troon, drunk as a lord,
armed to the teeth with cheap presents,
filled with the homing instinct of Tennent’s.
He got no answers, in or not,
went quietly to the attic flat
with just the one small carrier bag
from which he took three lengths of wire,
a pen, a notepad, two cans of beer,
scrawled down some lines To Stuart, drank
one can, tied three rough knots then sank
down to the knees, all six foot three
of him in roof-space really
meant for children or for keeping things
boxed five high you’d not be using
in your time there.
I found the note,
a few lines anyone might write
to say they’d bobbed ’round, you weren’t in,
no call-back time, but have that tin
of heavy on the mantelpiece,
that’s yours Stuart, & if you’d please
turn round you’ll see the cupboard doors
are open & my half-kneeled corpse
prays silently that you of all
the lodgers are testimonial
to knots I hope held true & tight,
knees necessary inches from
the floorboards & my arms still firm
behind the back, my wrists tied so
that when I drop there’s absolutely no
chance of me missing that required
finest balance between here & there.
The depressive agoraphobic
wouldn’t come out for the paramedics
even, & if I read her file
I’m sure I’d see, penned in, denial,
highlighted in red marker pen.
The distance between now & then
I still can’t judge as well as one
small backstep to oblivion.
And then, you know, from there to here
& drunkenness with one can of beer
has never come so awfully quick.
I sank the can. Of course I did.
Chapped – knocked (Scots)
Heavy – bitter/beer (Scots)
Stuart A Paterson is a widely published and anthologised Scottish poet living in Galloway. Writing in English and his native Scots language, he’s a previous recipient of an EC Gregory Award and a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. From 2017-18, he was BBC Scotland’s Poet-in-Residence.