Thursday, 5 April 2018


On the wall across from the foot of my bed hangs an AIRFIX skeleton.  I purchased it in the early '90s as a replacement for several of the same model I'd owned (at different times) as a child.  I'd love to be able to tell you that it inspired the following poem (which I wrote in 1980) because it would make a great anecdote to be able to say that the skeleton at the foot of my bed gave me the idea of Death being ever-present, but, alas, it had nothing to do with it, apt as it would be to claim otherwise.

Most of the poem came to me unbidden in the early hours of that '80s morning (I think it was October - I have a note of it somewhere, but it's not to hand at the moment), and, unable to sleep, I grabbed a pen and paper and jotted it down as it came to me.  Later, I added some bridging lines and polished it up into its present form, but, truth to tell, I'm still not entirely happy with it.  One day I must sit down and apply myself to giving it a further polish, but in the meantime I present it as it is for your esteemed consideration.  Are you all sitting comfortably?  Good, then I'll begin.


                                              Reader dear, if you will hearken,
                                              a hellish tale I shall relate;
                                              each and ev'ry word consider,
                                              for in their story lies my fate.
                                              One night while vainly seeking sleep,
                                              I heard a sound within my room,
                                              and slowly opening my eyes,
                                              I pierced the near-Stygian gloom.

                                              A fearful sight confronted me,
                                              O reader how can I convey
                                              the scene that met my startled eyes,
                                              a scene that haunts me to this day?
                                              A figure draped in black I saw,
                                              it lurked mere inches from my bed;
                                              a vision from the vaults of hell -
                                              my quaking heart was filled with dread!

                                              I lay quite still, no sound I made,
                                              though all the while I longed to scream -
                                              but I held back my cries of fear
                                              with hope 'twas all an idle dream.
                                              And then with stealth I pinched myself,
                                              with fervent pray'r my head would clear,
                                              but, alas, 'twas no vain fancy -
                                              the image did not disappear.

                                              I heard it moving closer then,
                                              though soft and muffled was its tread,
                                              a face peered out from 'neath its hood -
                                              a ghastly pale skeletal head!
                                              I watched the fiend loom over me,
                                              my body froze, my limbs grew numb.
                                              It bent its skull towards my face -
                                              I thought my final hour had come.

                                              And then it spoke - O saints above,
                                               I felt its fetid icy breath!
                                              The words it said near stopped my heart -
                                               "Tremble mortal, for I am Death!"
                                               And then my clouded head did spin,
                                               for he stretched out his evil claw,
                                               but something seemed to hold it back -
                                               his gnarled talon did withdraw.

                                               And as I gazed into his eyes,
                                               they glitter'd with intense regret;
                                               and then he spoke and I knew why -
                                               he said "Your time has not come yet.
                                               But know you this, although unseen,
                                               I stand forever at your side -
                                               and when at last your time does come,
                                               there is no place where you can hide!

                                               So now I leave you with these words" -
                                               he seemed to fade into the black -
                                               "You have respite, for now at least,
                                               but live in fear for I'll be back!"
                                               And with those words the fiend was gone,
                                               though only from my human sight,
                                               for he, in truth, yet lingers near -
                                               in spirit, ev'ry day and night.

                                               And since that dreadful hour I fear
                                               the chimes that bid me to my bed,
                                               for on some unknown day to come,
                                               the rising sun shall find me dead.
                                               And so I sit here while time flies
                                               until the day of Death's return,
                                               when he shall come to claim his prize -
                                               O reader dear, the tale is done! 


Oscar Dowson said...

It's weird, but the Airfix skeleton, along with the T-Rex and the 1999 Eagle, always seemed to require multiple builds. Maybe those three were more 'playable' as a kid, whilst the RAF and Luftwaffe jobs were more for display even at the age of 9.

Kid said...

Dunno about the T-Rex and Space 1999 Eagle, OD, but the skeleton was extremely fragile and therefore broke easily. That's why I bought a few of them in my time, eventually gluing the thing together 'rigid' so that it wasn't quite as breakable. My current one still retains the use of its moveable limbs though, and dances around the room when it thinks I'm not looking. (I've also got an unbuilt one still in its box.)

Paul Mcscotty said...

Nice poem, well not nice (as in sweet) but well written almost R E Howardish - have you had a thing about the "end" for a while or just a poem you thought up?

Kid said...

The answer is yes to both parts of your question, McS, despite the seeming contradiction. I just woke up one night and the majority of the poem came tumbling into my brain. I grabbed a pen and piece of paper and almost couldn't keep up with myself in my haste to write it down. I was around 21 when I wrote it, so was going through that phase of unconsciously thinking I was immortal that most young people seem to believe before they get older and realize differently.

Having said that, I've had a 'thing' about the 'end' since I was about 3 or 4. (Though, as I say, it was in temporary abeyance when I wrote the poem.) For full details behind that story, see my post 'Second Star To The Right...' then let me know what you think if you feel like it.

Paul Mcscotty said...

I cant recall when I first encountered the fact that I will eventually die, it was as you not in 'Second Star To The Right" it was certainly mentioned at church and in Sunday School but I don't think the true ramifications of that sunk in at that age - in my teens I was of course aware that this wasn't forever but as you say as a youth you feel and think you are invincible (such is the true miracle of nature) - I'm very aware heading toward the big 6-0 in a few years that I have at the very most, 25 years left (in reality much less than that - I a m Scottish after all and well Tunnocks tea cakes and Irn bru take their toll) - Im just planning to enjoy this time , look after my health and hopefully retire from full time work in a couple of years (not working till Im done in at 67) and taking in new experiences when I can by travelling and not sitting in the pub every weekend - your right key to that is keeping a young and positive outlook saying that Im off to the pub to meet my mates for a couple :)

Kid said...

I'm partial to the odd Tunnock's Tea Cake myself, McS, usually with a nice cuppa to wash it (them) down. Can't stand Irn Bru though. I want to live forever, and because I don't drink alcohol, smoke, or take drugs, it would probably seem like forever even if I were to fall off the twig in a couple of years.

Paul Mcscotty said...

Actually I haven't drank any bottles or cans of ginger (pop?) in well over 2 years (other than as a mixer in Gin or Vodka) that sugar will kill you faster than the booze (though not as fast of smoking an idiots game that) - but as a kid I loved Irn Bru total sugar heaven (health hell) - but overall you can't beat a nice cuppa tea - I think you have a lot more than a couple of years left kid your getting on (aren't we all) but not that old.

Kid said...

Dunno about that, McS - I'll be hitting that big 6-0 before you. (This year in fact.) That's the thing about getting old - you're over the hill and halfway down it before you even know how or when you got there.

Oscar Dowson said...

My skeletons mainly got damaged cos I'd dress them up in Action Man outfits and use them as battlefield casualties!

Kid said...

If they weren't casualties before that, OD, they certainly would be after. It must be next to impossible to get Skelly's hands and feet into a '60s or '70s Action Man outfit without breaking something.

Dave S said...

Very atmospheric poem, Kid. Ever thought of using your artistic talents to do an illustration or two to go with it?

I remember being fascinated by an object owned by a relative of mine- the money box shaped like a coffin where a skeletal hand would slither out and grab a coin left on the lid. I loved seeing that in action, and I think I hoped it'd be passed onto me when it's owner tired of it- never happened though, sadly.

Kid said...

I remember that money box coffin, DS - saw it in shops and US comic mag ads. Maybe even one of my pals had one. As for your question, yes, for years now I've thought about illustrating my poems. Never seem to find the time or energy to start though. One day maybe.

Anonymous said...

Hello again, Kid - I hope you are well.

On April 24th it will be the 30th anniversary of my sister's death, aged 19, so I've long known that death is always close by and can come for us at any age (nice poem by the way).

My local Tesco sells Tunnock's tea cakes - I've drunk Irn Bru too but it was many years ago so I don't remember what it tastes like!

Kid said...

Howdy-do-da, CJ, I trust you're well yourself. I bet that 30 years doesn't seem that long - or does it? I once posed for a photo for an exhibition, holding a bottle of Irn Bru with a bottle of Buckfast at my feet, but I haven't tasted Irn Bru since I was a wean. And I've never tasted Buckfast in my life. Just scoffed a Tunnock's Tea Cake with a cuppa about an hour or so ago. (Must be time for another.)

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