Pieces of string, a poem by Tim Armour
There’s a family tale of my Great Aunt Pearl.
Everything in its place was her dictum.
She’d lived by these words since her days as a girl.
Till this credo claimed her as its victim.
For she categorized everything that she owned,
And she put them in boxes with labels.
Then these boxes were stacked till the floor timbers groaned,
And each stack was as high as the gables.
Now, I’m not really sure if my memory fails,
And it’s hard to discern fact from fancy.
And from early in life I could spin some tall tales,
So veracity here may be chancy,
But as I recall it a seismic event.
Along the escarpment’s old fault line,
Beneath Owen Sound caused a shock to be sent,
That was felt far as Goderich’s salt mine.
In Auntie Pearl’s house all those boxes piled high,
Started teetering, tipping and tumbling.
I can conjure the picture within my mind’s eye.
She succumbed beneath boxes a-jumbling.
She was found a week later when neighbours caught wind,
Of a scent that was somewhat miasmic.
And on seeking its source, they discovered her pinned,
‘Neath a box in a pool protoplasmic.
The mortician came and he bore her away.
He arranged the most beautiful funeral,
And that it was moving there are none can nay say,
And for him it was richly remuneral.
Then my mother discovered that hers was the job,
Of emptying out her aunt’s dwelling.
The walls she’d wipe down. Give the floors a good swab,
And prepare the old mansion for selling.
My sister and I would accompany her,
As she tackled this onerous onus.
Our stipend was coins from the floor as it were,
And the candies we found were a bonus.
One battered old box she retrieved from the heap,
And she set it apart on the table.
She read, “pieces of string that were too short to keep.”
Now, this part of my yarn is no fable.
Then she untied the twine that encircled the box,
For she thought that the label was funny.
And lo and behold, ‘twas a true paradox,
For that label was right on the money.
There were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of string,
The longest were roughly one metre.
And I saw right away all the joy this could bring,
As a boy I thought, what could be neater?
But my mother just stood there and looked to the sky,
And she threw up her hands in a fluster.
Then she looked at the box, then looked up and said, why?
For her old auntie’s habits nonplussed her.
Yet I understood my great auntie’s penchant,
For thinking things might come in handy.
And to save for a day when such things may be scant,
As I sucked on a floor-found hard candy.
For pieces of string can be tied end-to-end,
Thus creating some cordage worth keeping,
So my mother said this box was my dividend.
I was thrilled with the trove I was reaping.
I was sure my Great Auntie had had the desire,
To tie all these pieces together,
But she hadn’t foreseen just how soon she’d expire,
Hadn’t heard a forewarning bellwether.
Now this parable’s point is to teach us a truth.
We should tie up loose ends while we’re able,
For some never get to their days ‘long of tooth.’
And quite soon now I’ll wind down my fable,
But fables aren’t done till they get to the parts,
Where the readers are preached to with morals.
So always be sure to put mules before carts,
And then don’t stop and rest on your laurels.