Alison Brackenbury‘s poem ‘Pensioned’ takes us back more than a hundred years to tell the story of an unlikely friendship between her grandfather, Frank, a gamekeeper on a large estate in England, and a local traveller Hezekian Brown. Alison gives us some background to the story below but I liked this poem because of the sweep of history it covers and how little details tell a great deal; ‘a gamekeeper/who would have shot him for a hare‘ and ‘safe beneath/his Council roof‘.
It then moves on half a century to a village scene where Hezekiah rides ‘his skewbald mare/hauling small scrap on a loose rein‘; here you get a sense of how after the Second World War, things were more free with little traffic and ‘wind-blown fuschias, raspberries‘ and there was a real optimism about the future even though this was a time of austerity. And then, fifty years more, we are shown that whilst things are so very different, with rising sea temperatures and crowded streets, we still send ‘others’ sons to distant wars‘ and we are again in a time of austerity so that ‘now we poor’. But I also think the title, makes us think about what politicians have pensioned off to give us a false sense of prosperity: council houses, national utilities, North Sea oil, our taxes to save the Bankers, etc.. (more…)