A Brothers’ Order

Part One: Early Times

Nick, small, in the moonlit corridors,

Dreaming the redistribution

Of “old D” dinner money

Taken from Cheeseman’s office*;

The next day, I sit in the dinner hall,

All lunch, my face turned away from mashed potato**;

At the weekend, you refuse to play football

With a group of bovver boys

And liberate us both by charging at their baffled leader;

Later, in a school game,

You refuse to play for me

And walk off;


Separated in secondary school,

My routine sneer forces Banson

To bundle me from the room

While you were the only boy at Dunstan’s

To “take on Narky Jack.”

At times ugly, uncouth, uncivil,

We swore at teachers,

Wrote manifestoes in our heads

And would not be told.

I loved and feared our defiance,

Our rebelliousness,

But I cherished our room together,

The bunks that dad was so proud of,

The religious rocking in the dark,

The quest for “deep” music

And the beginning of the eddying,

Monotonous, wordy,

Pretentious, transcendent,

Night- time conversations,

As two voices merged into one,

Earnest Monks on the brink of explaining


A Brothers’ Order.


Part 2: 50 years later

Pear upon pear waxes old, and apple on apple, yea, and cluster ripens upon cluster of the grape, and fig upon fig…these were the splendid gifts of the gods in the palace of Alcinöus …… A description of the gardens of Alcinöus, the King of the Phaeacians. (The Odyssey Book VII, Homer).

Stepping off the veranda,

He knots his flaming scarf,

Igniting the day:

Thrush sing, bees hum, pears swell,

Elegant boatmen skitter like a young Nick on a watery dancefloor,

Black poplar branches sway,

Beer and wine cool in a ditch.

Tasks distribute themselves favourably:

Someone to prune

Someone else to mow

Someone to gather

Some sawing, far-off I hope,

A fire to build.

As Marvell said, “How could such sweet and wholesome hours

Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers.”***

Later, tweed is left hanging

On a courteous branch,

An untroubled relative shifts position

And turns a page,

A rabbit pauses.

Tea is served, then dinner,

A fire crackles into life,

Beer and wine appreciate the attention

And gurgle their consent

While round the fire the choir of voices,

Family and friends, youth and age

Celebrate off-grid civility,

A sweet graft onto gnarled stock.

Within all this

An old brotherly antiphony

Assumes the air.

Murmuring between gulps of beer,

Our voices know the way the air flows:

Sometimes clogged with too many words

Sometimes pretentious

(Why not?)

Occasionally fluent, even transcendent

(At least it feels that way under these stars),

We’re finding our place again:

The others have gone to bed,

But, like Wallace Stevens’ pigeons,

Our voices, released long ago,

And with much still to say

“Make ambiguous undulations as they sink,

Downward to darkness on extended wings.”****



*Cheeseman = the headteacher of our primary school

** In a 60s primary school you weren’t allowed to leave food

***Andrew Marvell- The Garden

****Wallace Stevens – Sunday Morning

David Plumeridge May 2022