YOU and I

you and i
were school friends once

we sat at lift-top wooden desks
with inkwells filled
with blue-black ink

we stood in line
outside our room
and marched inside
as music played

we rode our bikes
in pouring rain
and carried printed messages
of births and marriages and deaths
decoded from a telegraph

you thought you might
become a carpenter
but ended up by managing
four decades in a shop

i saw you briefly once again
some years ago
when i was present
at the funeral
conducted for your wife
but there was nothing
I could say
that would console you
in your grief

so if we ever meet again
we should make sure this time
we say farewell

you and i
were team mates once

we played at games together
and we worked in weekends
stacking timber in a yard
or serving a in milk-bar
just to fuel the borrowed car

we never saw the need
to say goodbye
the last time
that we met
and yet
we never ever met again

you trained to be an engineer
but then decided to become
a man of god
some sort of bishop
i believe

your god required
its other-worldly presence
to be seated
at your left

and so it seems
my friend
i cannot hope
to ever see you
once again
because your god
is not aware
that i exist

you and i
were partnered once

as sexual inclinations
took the purpose of our lives
in hand

we danced and touched
and looked in fascination
as the pattern of our genes
controlled the focus
of our thoughts
so that
we did not understood
the reason why
we seemed obliged
to follow our desires

we parked by beach
and riverside
in family four-door cars
you took a risk
and rode with me
upon the pillion seat
of the old second hand
five hundred c c twin
that i had purchased
with a legacy
my father's father
left to me

we parted tearfully
one day
for reasons i can not recall
not ever thinking that
a fond farewell
would be our last

i heard from someone
somewhere a time ago
you went with someone overseas
and had a child or two

i imagine that
the children of your children
are almost certainly unlikely
not to never meet with mine

you and i
were actors once

upon a stage
brightlit for us

you were a heroine
one time
i think
and then a prompt
upon the next
and i sometimes
a feckless knave
and sometimes
front of house

the others cast
all played
their different parts
as was their wont

it was supposed
the sole direction
of our play
was to create a company
to entertain the night
but some of us
just strove to shine
and some of us
just struggled
not to be constrained
by fright

at last
the first night came
and all the costumes
and the makeup
were the final crafted touch
inducing the illusion
of a world
that wasn't there

the props appeared
the scenes were changed
the lights lit up the stage
on cue

we did our thing
we acted out
stuck mainly to the script
and at the final curtain call
acknowledged with relief
sometimes polite
but often generous

we played
a season of a week
at night
and earned a livelihood
by day

then suddenly
the last night went
and when the party
for the cast
was done
made my exit
to the right
and you
had other interests
to the left

and now
i can't remember lines
so that unless
we end up
at auditions
for an old review
and i get given
some sort of
walk on role

the curtain
has come down
between us
you and me

you and i
reciprocated once

the trained professional
just paid to be your client

we complemented one another
in the social scheme of things

you got some letters
by your name
to qualify your skill
and i supplied
the trust

you filled my teeth
injected drugs
and modified the septum
up my nose

you put in stents
replaced my hip
and took my gallstone out

you marked my work
checked my accounts
and measured out my land

you fixed my pipes
rewired my house
and checked
what was the law

i paid you then
and haven't seen you since

if it transpires
i ever need
your services again
then seek you out i will
for sure

the reality however is
you took
the only prostate gland
i had

you and i
were collegues once

we learned our trade
by working on the job

you in medical research
and i in maths and science

we both began
as casual staff
for evening courses
at an institute
for training
then were employed
as permanent co-workers
at the time
of all the first
political restructurings

we both were members
of our new professional association
you were president
of our local branch
the last year
that i was secretary

you struggled more than i
for recognition
and position
and you managed to become
a departmental head

we made a technical submission once
presented to a luke-warm subset
of the local city councillors
that seems in retrospect
to have been able
to ignore it

we only ever socialized
sometimes a game of pool
perhaps a barbeque for staff
and never met the circles
of our private friends

a cancer struck you down
quite quickly
i remember
as were several
other collegues
so that
i have often wondered
whether something
in our work-place
was effecting us
that we could well
have done without

you and i
were fliers once

you taught me how to fly
i learned from you
the confidence
to fly aloft alone
and to effect recovery
from errors that are made
and to ensure
sufficient height above
the unforgiving ground

but then
you spread your wings
and took your skills
and flew on foreign strips
in order to explore
the limits
of the envelope
of risk

the day was hot
it seems
and takeoff was uphill
the numbers said
the all up weight
was just OK for go

but lift-off
never happened
and the calculated gamble
failed and lost

so now
my licence
has expired
and routines
of yet another day
will shift
the fading memories
of flying dual with you
much further
in the past

you and i
were warriors once

we joined up
at the call

our way of life
was threatened
and it was either
us or them

we tried to volunteer
and choose
the war machines
that seemed to most appeal

i wanted to be trained
to fly a fighter
or a bomber
in the air
but ended up in battle
as the driver
of an ammunition truck

you told me
that you hoped to be
an officer of gunnery
aboard a naval frigate
but you found yourself
behind a new machine gun
in a pill-box
at the front

the truck i drove
avoided every mine
and all the shells and mortars
never scored a direct hit

the battles sort of stopped
and when the chaos
had retreated
we could count the names
and then decide
which few of us survived

but you
i read in a report
were blown to bits
by the first ranging shot
from guns
ten miles behind the lines

every year
about the time
the dawn parade arrives

i think of you
and of the different hands
that we were dealt

you and i
were neighbours once

we lived in houses
that related well
to the suburban status
of our social strata group

we paid about
the same amount
of rates
and voted if we wished
to influence the makeup
of the local council board

we spoke across the fence
about the wind or sun
and how the ground was dry
and whether it might rain
or not

i put my rubbish out
the same day
every week
as yours
and mowed my lawns
with round about
the same amount
of noise

we both endured
the same restrictions
placed in summer
on our sprinklers
and our hand-held hose

we both enjoyed
the rain and hail
that fell upon our roofs
the same cold wind
from west of south
that flailed and threshed
the washing on our lines

we both rebuffed
the same paired
witnessing purveyors
of a psychiatric god
that knocked unwanted
at our doors
and offered newsprint guides
to a demented vision
of ecstatic and eternal life

but as will always be the case
my circumstances changed
so that my house
no longer suited
the requirements
of my life

so when the time was right
i sold my house
and loaded all my stuff
into a van
took one last look around
and left

i saw your house
for sale
the other day
with all the details
in the local rag
and advertised online
and then the next time
that i looked
a sold sign
another agents cut

i suppose
you're shifting
to be closer
to your kids
to have more input
into the way
that they are raised

i'll try
and look you up
if ever
i get over that way
i'm pretty tied up here
these days

what with croquet
and the bowls
and some volunteering work
and the garden
and the lawns
and a little pussy cat
and supermarket shopping
once a week