A Penny for the Guy

A Penny for the Guy

A Poem by David Lewis Paget
"

Guy Fawkes Day - the traditional celebration in England for foiling the man who tried to blow up Parliament

"

 

Ever remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot,
We see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
 
I was sorting through my father's things,
A month since he had died,
And flipping through the books he'd loved,
To still the chill inside,
When out there fell a photograph
Of me, at nine years old,
A tiny square of black and white
That made my blood run cold!
 
It brought the memories rushing back,
For in that ancient scene,
I stood before a building that
Would make an old man scream,
An air raid shelter, from the war,
A roof so flat and square,
And on the top the bonfire that
Once lit, brought grief to bear.
 
November 1946,
Was pencilled on the rear,
That date was burnt into my brain,
It brought a sudden tear,
And memories of childhood friends
I hadn't seen since then,
Nor ever would again, I thought,
I left, when I was ten!
 
We'd stuffed the Guy with newspaper
Inside my father's suit,
And Ben, he had supplied the hat,
And Shirley brought the shoes,
We put him on the barrow
Roamed the streets and gave a shout,
'A penny for the Guy,' we called,
The Guy just flopped about!
 
'He isn't very real,' said Ben,
'His head keeps falling off!
We need a broomstick for the neck.'
Then Shirley gave a cough;
'What if I dressed up in the suit,
That mask, to hide my face?
We'd have the best Guy in the street,
The best Guy in the place!
 
We laughed, and all agreed, so she
Hid in her father's shed,
Put on the suit, too long for her,
The hat just crowned her head,
We put her in the barrow then,
And pushed from street to street,
'A penny for the Guy,' we said,
You couldn't see her feet.
 
A funny girl was Shirley then,
With funny little ways,
She seemed too shy to play with us
Except on certain days.
She said her father was a brute,
He'd tie her to a chair,
And once she said, 'he tied me up
And touched me - you know where!'
 
We didn't understand at all,
Just kids - she shrugged and sighed,
If we thought anything at all
We thought she must have lied,
For fathers didn't do those things,
We'd never heard of that,
And blushed just at the thought of it;
(She hid beneath her hat!)
 
That night we sneaked her on the roof
Before our folks arrived,
We didn't want them seeing her,
The Guy would look contrived;
The wood was piled up eight feet high,
We sat her at the top,
'Now don't jump up 'til they're all here,
We'll catch them on the hop!'
 
I'd smelt that funny smell when we
Were climbing on the pile,
We didn't know what smell it was,
Although it smelt quite vile.
But someone had poured petrol on
The wood to make it burn,
We didn't know what petrol was,
The fumes made Shirley squirm.
 
The fumes, they must have knocked her out
For when the folks arrived,
We waited, she should jump and shout
But she was scarce alive,
The fireworks were going off
And lighting up the sky,
I said to Ben, 'let's get her down!'
The moment passed us by.
 
A spark lit up the monstrous pile,
I saw Ben, looking pale
The parents down there, staring up
Just cheered, and drank their ale.
The Guy was soon a blazing torch,
I screamed, 'the Guy's a girl!'
And Ben tugged at her father's coat:
'The Guy up there is Shirl!'
 
Then suddenly the Guy leapt up
And screamed in pain, aloud,
The flames engulfed her as she jumped
Into the waiting crowd,
Her father caught her in his arms
Became a blazing torch,
He ran, half stumbled back with her,
Collapsed upon the porch.
 
They lay, two blackened corpses there
With rockets overhead,
And Catherine Wheels and Jumping Jacks
Went off as they lay dead.
We never celebrate Guy Fawkes,
That day won't go away!
I slipped that photo back into
That book, called - 'Let Us Pray!'
 
David Lewis Paget

© 2012 David Lewis Paget



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Featured Review

This is a very powerful piece. Well crafted..I am sure you have been writing a long time and have published as well. This is story telling at it's best, keeps one on the edge of thier seat. Excellent use of languge, good syntaxand metre. I hope to find more of your work. Thank you for a great read.
Marion Sadler

Posted 7 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

How awful. I'd hate to think that it really happened. But you have such a power imagination and succh a powerful way of writing...I could see Shirley and her father burning like torches...falling into blackened corpses together...

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I love how you seamlessly blend history with poetry and narrative storytelling. Combined, they weave a tapestry of unimaginable beauty. No matter how morbid nor tragic the tale, your words and your works are an inspiration.

Linda Marie

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A riveting tale in rhyme. It flows along so smoothly in spite of the horrific events. You have touched on so much reality in tis piece. The reactions of young boys to Shirley's abuse was a typical reaction that even adults displayed and that is why so many of us wouldn't tell anyone, for fear of being accused of lying and/or laughed at, or beaten. Obviously you have grown to know the truth and have shown compassion in this write. When you first mentioned the petrol I suspected that Shirley was set ablaze. But never guessed the twist of poetic justice, or irony when she took her abusive dad with her. Great write as always, my friend.

Posted 7 Years Ago


David, this one gave me the chills. Your expression and having been in England before Australia your tales seem to combine truth with ideas from your brilliant mind..You are a master of tales Mate and I am proud to have you as a friend..loved this one,,God bless..Kathie

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I was marginally familiar with Guy Fawkes day, and burning him in effigy on November fifth, but did not know of the other elements of the observance. When Shirley gor into the suit, though, i had a foreboding of what was to come. As is your wont, David, ghastly, told with consummate skill!

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

You always capture me from the first sentence and pull me right along through the history, the moral dilemma, the sinister ending, and the classic twist.......you rounded this out nicely by ending with the photo in the book, just as you started. I was not familiar with the event you were commemorating (surprise!:) but I was captivated by it none-the-less. Excellent tale once again!

Posted 7 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Congratulations on a profound read. You mixed history with the follies of mankind as well as the atrocities grown-ups inflict on children. You added a touch of righteous justice along with a taste of the bizarre. The photo touch added realism to the entirety of the piece making the story totally believable. One of your best.

Posted 7 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Great job for several reasons. Firstly, I like the insight into your history and the way the photo takes you and the reader into a the personal reality of what is now history. 1946 and all that seems and is a long time off now, but the guy ceremony takes us even further back into England's psyche. I like the sense of separation from old friends, too, the wistfulness of it. I also like the way the poem turns dark when it touches on bad things that were once covered up, or just not spoken of. And there is drama in the ending. But above all the poem is a trigger for me in that it evokes memories of Nov 5ths from the 1950s and 1960s ... I recall building the bonfires for weeks before, all kinds of stuff going onto them. And I recall nicking fireworks from a corner shop and doing all kinds of mad things with them. And of course the blaze itself. Some of my happiest memories. Fire, explosions, smoke and danger, and a 'Roman Candle' was a far from innocent name for a brightly coloured firework.

Posted 7 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Oooooh That chilled me to the bone....guessed half of what was going to happen by verse 6 but the twist at the end is your trademark.

Posted 7 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Well told.
You never disappoint me for a good story, thats for sure.


Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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Added on December 7, 2009
Last Updated on June 28, 2012

Author

David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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