Thursday, 14 November 2013

Charles Causley - Timothy Winters

I’ve been wanting to post this well known poem by Charles Causley for some time.  It’s called, Timothy Winters.  I love the poem for a number of technical reasons – the rhyming, a four feet five feet rhythm and a voice that I guess is Cornish (Charles Causley came from Cornwall), so it makes you want to recite it in your best British accent.  Then there’s the entertaining sense of humour and the nice hook at the end, ‘come one angel, come on ten: Timothy Winters, Lord.’
Charles Causley was a schoolteacher, and this poem certainly stands testimony to the belief that if I am to be a poet I should write about things I know or have observed.  Well, OK, about the things I know, as well as what I have considered toward my observations, together with what my emotional response is to them.  I think that’s how I’ve come to select Timothy Winters for this post.  I’m thinking how society treats people wrong sometimes, especially from lack of justice within our social systems.  We all have a built in sense of what is fair and of what makes something wrong – sometimes we need reminding of it.  Here in our news in Sydney we have public outcry from the parents of an innocent young boy who was walking with his girlfriend through the city when he was ‘king hit’ and killed by some thug who went on attacking other victims on the same night.  The thug received a prison sentence of only four years on good behaviour.  I know revenge is not a part of justice, but I feel for the parents – at their faith and trust in the system and how they can’t help feel they’ve been let down.
Let down and duped by the system – the legal system, the political system, the welfare system.  Poor Timothy Winters, needing all the help in the world makes social justice and the school’s prayers of petition look like a joke when he, “roars ‘Amen’!”
Timothy Winters
(Charles Causley – 1917 to 2003)
Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.
His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.
When teacher talks he won’t hear a word
And shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the pattern off his plate
And he’s not even heard of the Welfare State.
Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren’t boys like him any more.
Old man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier,
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy’s dosed with an aspirin.
The Welfare Worker lies awake
But the law’s as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.
At morning prayers the Headmaster helves
For children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars ‘Amen!’
So come one angel, come on ten:
Timothy Winters says ‘Amen’
Amen amen amen amen.
Timothy Winters, Lord.

At first reading, this poem may appear to be a swipe at Christian belief, a mockery of religious process, a suggestion that the Lord is powerless and blind to reality.  But I don’t think that is what the poem says.  If it is a swipe, then it is a swipe at one individual’s (the headmaster) and the system’s (school) blindness to recognize that there is already one among them who is in immediate need.  Yes, Timothy Winters roaring ‘Amen’ is a joke but it is a joke on the system that goes through a ritual of morning prayer yet never thinks that it should bear true witness.
I haven’t read much of Charles Causley.  He was an English poet, born in Cornwall.  He served in the Royal Navy during WWII so he must have been a decent sort of bloke and because of that I’m keen to read more of his work.
I wrote my poem for this post some time ago.  It comes from what I observed in the press, my consideration toward that situation and my emotional response to it, which was a sense of injustice and social misunderstanding.  I don’t know, a lot of times I can’t help but feel for the underdog no matter what shit he’s in or what he’s done.  Don’t let the bastards win man!
2000:  Listening to the news, I couldn’t help but feel the anguish and hurt of a man in a hopeless situation.

What About the Man

A man snatched his son
at Port Norlunga and
took him to a warehouse
in Lonsdale.
The man had been living there
since being estranged
from his wife,
it was a custody battle.
The man
threatened to set fire
to himself and the boy.
Police said there was a smell of fuel in the area.
They had to surround the factory with a SWAT team,
ambulances, fire engines
red hoses run out
police negotiators.
They got it all for television
on the six o’clock news,
you could see the news reader thought
the man had done something wrong.
She was calm
on the side of right
and was caring
and beautiful.
The soft and sweet potential
of a mother’s love
assured us the man gave himself up
and was taken into custody.
Everything was OK,
the boy was re-united with his mother,
a happy ending to a nasty situation
thought the lovely news reader
And she carefully smiled to assure us
that the woman was good and loved her son
while the man
was led away by two very official policemen.
will be charged
with abduction
and endangering life.
what about the man
who snatched his son
at Port Norlunga!
                                   J. O. White

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