It starts at the end of October,
more important than Hallowe’en
to British children conditioned
to celebrate a dastardly plot
which failed a long time ago.
I wish it hadn’t.
That chap Guy Fawkes
has a lot to answer for
that he didn’t manage to blow up
the Houses of Parliament,
so we still have to put up with
all those expensive windbags
who think they run the country.
But I digress. The children
couldn’t care less about the
origin of the fun,
there’s work to be done,
a Guy to be made
from a hodgepodge of cadged garments
and maybe a few that are nicked,
a squashed felt hat
some stuffing of straw and rags
and anything else that will burn.
The ridiculous creature, stuffed into a barrow
is wheeled around town
in a quest for pennies for the guy –
maybe enough to buy
bangs and showers of golden rain
and rockets and squibs and Catherine wheels,
“not to be sold to anyone under eighteen”.
And then they’re scavenging burnables
junk wood, old tyres, broken fences,
building , little by little
what will by November the fifth,
be a towering inferno, Guy Fawkes perched on top.
Comes the day – will it never be dark?
Dads at the ready to take control,
buckets of sand and water here and there
bonfire starts to light the scene.
Baked potatoes, sausages, mulled wine for the mums
and sparklers for the little ones.
Comes the night, all systems go:
Bang, flash, whoosh and whistle
oohs and ahs
and gunpowder perfume fill the air.
Flames get higher and higher
before imploding with a shower of sparks
engulfing the guilty guy for ever.
Joseph Harker’s latest Reverie asks us to invent our own “holiday” or festival, or if we’re from a different culture or country, to explain one that might be unknown elsewhere. This poem describes a surprising survival that is dear to the hearts of all British children’
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