Poem: A Letter from Timothy by Frances Macken

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Dear Maggie,

I hope this letter finds you well, but sense t’won’t be for long.
You won’t believe what’s happened here. You might as well sit down.
And have a glass of something strong and read no more until,
You’re sitting in a firm armchair, the one beside the ‘sill.
The crossing took six weeks for me, it felt like sixty-two.
This city full of dirt and smog is like a stinking stew.
I took a digs to stay a while, no better than a sty;
My body flattened out beneath the choking blackened sky.
I work all day to feed myself, stay on the straight and narrow,
But something bad has happened here and scares me to my marrow.
I had to write to let you know and ask you please to pray,
For this poor soul has seen the devil in the light of day.
See, something bad’s been followin’ me since I came off the boat,
I saw him coming on the plank, he didn’t walk but float.
A portent in a cloak of black, a tophat on his head,
You’d know just by the look of him that he was very dead.
I daren’t say the name aloud, although I know I’ve read it,
The ghost of he who goes to sea, the man that they call Pettit.
A lonely spook whose fate is naught but crossing o’er and back,
He’s doomed to spend his time on boats and scare the living slack.
They say he rarely steps ashore and if he ever will,
He’s found a fellow traveller for whom he won’t be still.
They say that Pettit comes to those who’re sick with thoughts of home,
Who dream of mist and mossy bog and meadows made to roam.
I think he means to follow me until my end of days,
And I would sooner be at home than in this concrete maze.
The only cure, from what I’ve read, is turn upon your heel,
Go back to where you came from quick, before your fate is seal’d.
Oh sister, I am asking now if you would sell the farm,
And send me all the money made before I come to harm.
My body aches, I cannot sleep, the stranger’s in the room,
I daren’t blow the candle out and lie here in the gloom.
I need a ticket home at once, we really can’t delay.
I have a palsy, and a rash, my hair is turning grey.
It’s no exaggeration Mags, I’d do the same for you.
We’ll start again – we’ll have a shop – or something well-to-do.
I saw you last in days of spring and now ‘tis only May
You shed your tears, you bid goodbye, and then you turned away.
Your kindness has no boundary, your face that of a saint,
Don’t think too long on quandary, don’t think of a complaint.
I hope you find it in your heart to send me on the cheque,
And pray to God that Pettit waits behind upon the deck.

Your loving brother,


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