Little Island


Little Island feeling lonely,

Looking round to left and right,

Seeing others in the distance,

Even continents in sight.

See the sunlight on the water,

How it dances on the waves,

Prevents the sight from seeing further,

In a dazzling way behaves.

Little island feeling lonely,

How it wishes to be free,

Free to join and be with others,

Separated by the sea.

Forget the dazzle on the surface,

Look with insight deeper down,

In the cool depths all around you,

Until the base of all is found.

Little Island now is happy,

Knowing it is part of all,

Seeing deeply and more clearly,

Not bedazzled now at all.

We are all such little islands,

Joined beneath a troubled sea.

No need ever to feel lonely,

I’m part of you – you’re part of me.

Bill Dawson - 1977


Pure Venom

Miss Harper sat down demurely at her little table and began to write - very neatly and painstakingly. She had already placed to one side the correspondence file for the local Church Charity which she ran, carefully put away the receipts and collection boxes for Christian Aid, for which she was district organiser, and placed her well-worn Bible back into its usual place on her bedside table. She liked to keep everything in order.

Miss Harper was in her late fifties, with silverish hair pulled neatly back from her elfin face. She was wearing a high-necked, white blouse beneath a smart woollen jacket, with a matching knee-length skirt, and had just returned from church. Her whole appearance, including her manner and speech, could be described as ‘neat’, and would have bordered on prim had it not been softened by her open, innocent expression and ready, warm smile. She was well-liked and well respected by the whole community of that small English town.

There was a sweet smile of anticipation on her angelic face as she settled to compose her latest poison-pen letter.

She addressed it to the newcomer who had recently moved in to number fifteen Laburnum Terrace - he’d only rented it, she knew. She had her writing table situated in the bay window of her bedroom, on the first floor, from where she could command a good view of the whole street and its ‘goings-on’, and she could actually see his house diagonally opposite across the road from where she sat now. She had part-open, reflective venetian blinds, which enabled her to see out quite clearly but effectively stopped anyone detecting her presence at the window.

She stopped writing after addressing the letter and paused to ponder the situation. Gradually, her kindly smile slipped and her mouth twisted into a thin-lipped grimace of malice as she thought about the wicked Mr O’Leary of number fifteen. She despised and detested Mr O’Leary. First, he was Irish. Second, he was a Catholic, though he certainly did not attend church on Sundays. He never left the house on Sunday mornings - probably spent them in bed in a state of sin, outside of holy wedlock, performing unnatural acts of lust with that scarlet woman who often stayed the night with him. She dwelt on that picture for a moment with a feeling of delicious disgust and righteous resentment. The religion she belonged to wasn’t powerful enough nowadays to publicly shame and punish such behaviour, which was an abomination unto the Lord as the Holy Book said, but she could do the Lord’s work for him - at least to some extent.

The wicked Mr O’Leary wasn’t a bit like the other Irishman - Irish gentleman - who had moved into the house next door to her two years ago, with his wife and two children. He and his wife were respectable, and the children quiet and respectful. They went to the same church as Miss Harper every Sunday without fail, and he always gave her a lift in his car, both ways, inviting her in for a cup of tea afterwards. She didn’t mind his being Irish so much: after all, she supposed he couldn’t help it, and the Lord gave everyone their burdens to bear.

Billy O’Leary came away from the bay window of the terraced house he rented. He had been standing back a little, staring at the house a few doors down on the opposite side of the road. He muttered, half aloud, “That Protestant bastard makes me want to puke - the smarmy hypocrite. Making a show of going to that church, sucking up to the English, ingratiating himself with little old ladies, ....”. He tailed off, hatred glinting in his eyes. He paused for a while, then shouted in a hoarse whisper, “I’ll do for you, Tim Devlin. You were part of that Paisley mob who murdered my cousin in ‘73, and you think I don’t know. Well, I’ve followed you and I’ve found you. It’s taken me two years, but now you’ve finally got yours coming to you. We’ve got God on our side and we’ll clear you Orange Protestant bastards out of Ireland once and for all.” At last, as his anger cooled to his normal cold hatred, he sat down at the table, got out his kit of chemicals, which he handled with extreme care, then started to write a note. 

It was Tuesday morning: the postman made his way down Laburnum Terrace. He delivered one slim letter to number fifteen, carried on to the end then back down the other side. It was ten o’clock by the time he arrived at Tim Devlin’s and produced a small package, wrapped in Christmas paper. Too large to go through the letter box. He knocked and rang at the door but got no response. Eventually he rang the bell next door, number twelve. A sweet, little old lady answered the door.

“Sorry to trouble you, but would you mind taking this parcel in for Mr Devlin - I can’t get any answer?”

“Of course I will, dear. Mr Devlin and his wife are both out at work now, and the children are at school. Oh, that’s a funny shaped package, isn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s what I thought. It’s only small, but it won’t go through the letter box. Must be a Christmas present. Anyway, thanks very much. Save me taking it back to the office, won’t it. Well, I’d better get on. Good morning.”

Miss Harper placed the parcel on the kitchen table and sat contemplating it, or rather what it might contain, whist she had her mid-morning tea. It was the odd shape that piqued her curiosity. Why on earth hadn’t the sender put it into a box before he wrapped it up? Strange! Still, it was very well wrapped - inside the paper it was sewn up in thick canvas, and with what felt like layers of bubblewrap inside. She gently handled the packet, carefully pushing down the wrapping where it was loose to get a better idea of the contours of the contents. It was flat on one side, she discovered, which might be the base of whatever was inside. But it also had smooth lumps and sharper protrusions, not to mention two small cylindrical parts. It was quite heavy, given its size. She stared at it, baffled. A toy, perhaps?

After three more cups of tea, she was still perplexed by the strange parcel, and her curiosity had become intense. She still had a few hours before the Devlins returned home - plenty of time to do a careful job of opening the parcel, and to re- wrap it so that they would not suspect a thing. She’d had plenty of practice of steaming open her father’s letters when he was still alive, so this shouldn’t be too difficult.

Miss Harper took forty-five minutes to open the parcel, using her usual careful and precise manner. At last she separated the contents from its packaging and held the object of her curiosity in her hands. The wrapping had dropped to the floor, and a small sheet of folded note paper slid onto the table. Suddenly her hands were shaking, but she managed to place the object on the table with extreme delicacy. Onto a wooden base were attached two small batteries, two small metal tubes sticking up from the base, a small glass phial of tea-coloured liquid, and three layers of cream plasticine or Blu-Tack packed all round it. A small tangle of different coloured wires seemed to interconnect everything.

Although she had had no experience of such things, Miss Harper needed no prompting to tell her this was a home-made bomb. Her self-satisfied smile vanished and was replaced by an expression of terror. She was afraid to move. She had no idea what would trigger the bomb - perhaps just a little nudge of the table. Or maybe there was a timing device? Had she triggered some unseen switch? She just froze.

“Oh, Sweet Jesus, help me. Please don’t let the bomb go off. I'll promise you anything, but I beg you, please don’t let the bomb go off.”

She waited a full minute, motionless - and nothing happened. She was just plucking up the courage to carefully get up from the table and creep from the house, when she noticed the folded piece of note paper. Maybe that would tell her something - something about the bomb. With infinite slowness she reached out for the piece of paper. With both hands she gently opened it out and read the message. She gave a small scream and a great shudder as she flicked the paper away from her and stared aghast at her hands.

The message read: “Devlin. I knew a professional bomber like you wouldn’t be fooled by any kind of bomb, or trigger one off, but I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist opening it up, either - if only to get a clue as to who sent it. So, of course, I didn’t send you a real bomb, as you now know. However, this note paper is saturated with a deadly poison that can be absorbed through the skin, Xacamina - concentrated extract from a very poisonous South American snake, if you’re interested - pure venom. So if you are reading it now you only have two minutes to say your prayers. Maybe its a good time to change to the True Religion. In case you’re wondering, this Christmas present is on behalf of my cousin that you murdered. Now you know who I am. You could say that this is the ultimate poison pen letter. See you in Hell.” Miss Harper slowly collapsed into a very untidy heap on the floor. 

Bill Dawson - 2013


Dead Men's Shoes

In China’s land, in days of old,
When girls were born, so I am told,
Some great divine mistake occurred -
Their feet were not as Man preferred.

“Deformity has taken place,
Genetic error of our race.
So cut and bind and crush and cramp,
And place the feet inside a clamp.

Tradition must be satisfied,
Ancestors said (and glibly lied),
And if your child’s ideas are new,
Hold fast their feet and turn the screw.
Ignore the anguish and the pain
The child must bear, again, again,
No matter what we put them through,
The foot must fit within the shoe.”

                           * * *

We do not fear such ways, you see
Our women’s feet are bondage free,
One cruel nonsense left behind -
But now the target is the mind.

And so across the world today
When we are born, I’ve heard them say,
Some great divine mistake occurs,
Our minds are not as Man prefers.

“Deformity has taken place,
Genetic error of our race.
So cut and bind and crush and cramp,
And place the mind inside a clamp.

Young thoughts are new and fresh and free,
Not as we want their minds to be,
So let us use manipulation,
Force feed them with indoctrination.

Their own free thoughts we must confine
And force them into our design,
Beliefs prepared before their birth,
Cultures, ethics, sense of worth.

Ancient tribesmen, superstition,
Vindictive gods and cruel perdition,
Angels, goblins, devils, hells -
Tradition is what all this spells.

So make them Christian, Muslim, Jew,
What they must think, what they must do,
No matter what we put them through,
The foot must fit within the shoe.”

                            * * *

[One size fits all, and all politically correct, Sir!]

Bill Dawson