THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD
Four abreast the Harleys swarm,
buzzing into genteel Poole
alias Deadwood, South Dakota.
Latter-day cowboys ride into town
low in the saddle, gunfire crackling
from every exhaust.
They dismount outside J D Wetherspoon
(their Hickok Saloon)
and peel back bandannas to reveal
long, grey locks.
In the Seniors’ StayTrim Center
SupaSlim grannies with china-doll faces
pedal to heaven
on stationary steeds.
They’ll never embroider of an evening,
nor will the bikers build Fort Laramie
Old Sitting Bull was right:
you can hold back the cavalry.
They’ve knocked back the liquor of limitless youth,
traded the harmless for the audacious
and shot Old Age stone dead.
A little poetry is a dangerous thing;
certain verses can race your pulse
and worm into your mind,
never to be prised out.
They suddenly twitch into consciousness
like the reminder of an old wound
and cause your lips to move,
to the consternation of others.
You can reveal your malady to close companions
knowing they may contract your fever,
but those verses will be part of you to the end,
truer than your epitaph.
We’re flung forward by the brake.
Another feral dog, heat-drowsed, slow,
missed by a whisker? No –
Snake! Six-foot snake!
Out of deference we let her pass,
powered by lightning, side-winding
over shimmering tarmac, gliding
like mercury over glass.
Earth-mother like Shakti the consort of Shiva,
on her headlong errand she ignores
us totally; out of reverence we leave her
to reach her distant, ever-secret lair.
Our universe halts right there,
all movement, all progress paused.
We do not even think “We spared
your life”. Her fissured features, if aware
of such hubris, would spit back “I gave you yours!”
Four seconds, then men and women bearing burdens
among grinding trucks and cycles glittering in the heat
trudge again along the dust-blown street
past walls enclosing watered hotel gardens.
We weave between them to the Holiday Inn,
where a motionless lizard, tail curled,
head tilted, curious, uncertain,
forms an intricate impression of another world.
The last time I was you
you worked at Primark
not Marks and Sparks
and the time before that
you married our local copper
so the kids were different.
You did knitting not speedway
but died impaled on your needles.
The last time you were me
you won’t remember but
I was born twice in one week
because of a snag in space-time.
Then we were my mother
you and me.
We’ve been hundreds of dentists
and a Bengal tiger
not yet born.
The Floyd-Marshall algorithm solves the all-pairs path problem
I love the way you say that
And Smith-Waterman’s process finds local sequence alignment
I’ve often thought that myself
Nonblocking minimal spanning switch!
Not many men say that to me
Merge, with elements on the output not repeated
Look… perhaps we should hold our horses
Tarjan’s components are strongly connected
I’ve missed you terribly
Dynamic time warping measures the similarity between two sequences
When you left, the bottom fell out of my world
Heap’s permutation interchanges elements
You mean the world fell out of your bottom?
Steady now. Look, you could stay the night…
Fuzziness determines if strings are approximately equal
I’ll put you a camp-bed in the front room
A beam-stack search integrates an initial node
We could talk long into the night, couldn’t we?
A Soundex refinement allows matching of Slavic and Germanic surnames
Or we could cuddle, couldn’t we?
Brian Young is a retired languages teacher living in Hertfordshire, England. He has a degree from London University in Spanish and French, and for many years taught languages in secondary schools and at the University of Hertfordshire. He is an active member of Ver Poets in St Albans, helps to run a University of the Third age poetry group, and regularly reads his work at the Poetry Society in London. He has won several prizes in national competitions, including second prize in the Southport Writers’ Circle open competition. He has gained certificates of merit from the Mere Literary Festival, Wiltshire and has had poems published in several anthologies. He enjoys writing slightly quirky poetry where he tries to emphasize the precise and heightened use of language.