Laurie Van der Hart

Tribute To Mr Mayor - Poem by Laurie Van der Hart

The bulldozers are there today
Removing every vestige of what was there before
The last big root of a tree, the few bits of concrete
Remaining from that block on which the container stood
A shipping container - MAERSK, it said, in blue letters
Soon even the fence will be gone
That fenced off that little world from the rest of the village
Where a man lived these almost ten years
A man tall and well-built and sporty
Once upon a time; with a job and a family
Reduced to living alone in a metal box
Without water or lights or central heating
Through the hot summers
And the long, icy cold, dark winters
An old man, white-haired, no longer able to move well
Shuffling along with his one crutch
To the edge of his plot, to tip his trash
And sewage, because he had no toilet
And up the long hill sometimes to the shop
Or down into the village to fetch water
In a plastic container, or gas for cooking
And heating, putting one foot in front
and dragging the other leg to catch up
Pulling along his wheeled shopping bag

I used to wonder how he spent his time
How he survived the cold and the heat
And the loneliness of his life
He was not lazy - he had a little 'business'
Selling 'BIO' - some kind of milky powder
In a can he advertised was for clearing drains
And helping compost to rot quickly
I bought some a few times -
He sold it at his gate with a big BIO sign
That's why we called him 'Old Man Bio'
But his name was Mr Mayor, when translated
And it made me chuckle, and cry
Because he was dignified in his own way
He was not a tramp, although he tramped
Up and down our village road
And how many people took note of him
I cannot say, but to me it seemed
By and large, he was invisible
To most.

In good times, we would see him
Thrashing his long grass, keeping his plot tidy
With a cloth tied around his head
Keeping one eye on his 'BIO' table
In case a car, somebody, might stop
And actually buy a can or two
And gradually he also sold off little things
That must once have been in
His original home
And he used to give me things
Little gifts of appreciation for my visits
And a few gifts I took over from time to time
Look! There's the little clay piglet he gave me once
And that is the massage roller
He wrapped up for me on another day
It's all I have left
To remind me

Once when I arrived he had a visitor
That was surprising
She was a nurse and she was dressing
His raw, gangrenous legs
Oh! What a sight!
I had brought him a couple of plants
And they seemed so pathetic
When I saw and smelled his
Putrefying flesh
The nurse was brave, must have wondered
Who I was
And what could I say?
A neighbour? A friend? Hardly
We used to communicate with difficulty
And my visits were infrequent
Though my conscience visited him
Several times daily, when I drove past
Stubborn old man
Wouldn't accept lifts to the shops
Or that I bring his water or gas for him
Wouldn't have been a bother
But he was proud, and he refused
Perhaps it was good
That struggle to survive kept him alive
But how it used to burn my heart

There was an ambulance there one day
Took him away
And it came again, so he was back for a while
But then the winter struck
And what a cold winter it was
And I noticed his crutch leaning on the doorpost
For days and then weeks it didn't move
And then I knew
That Mr Mayor, was no more
I had a twinkle of hope
That maybe one of his estranged daughters
Had taken him in
And looked after her father
But life is harsh and people are not kind
And I'm pretty sure that that poor man
Died alone in his little tin can house
Soon they'll be planting crops there
Or maybe even build a house
And there'll be no more trace
Of Mr Mayor

Topic(s) of this poem: life, social comment, story, village

Poet's Notes about The Poem

This story is true, told from my perspective. The picture is not the actual container that he lived in, but is similar.

Comments about Tribute To Mr Mayor by Laurie Van der Hart

  • Bri Edwards (4/1/2018 11:37:00 AM)

    (continued) ..and with 'that', i end my comments here. yes, i'll consider this for a poem in the future; it 'should' be publicized since it is so 'interesting' and well-done! bri :) (Report) Reply

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  • Bri Edwards (4/1/2018 11:36:00 AM)

    (continued) .. you treated Mr Mayor well, i'll say. helpful and friendly, but (i guess) not too pushy, you didn't force him into a car to give him 'a lift' to town or elsewhere. i may have acted the same as he did, but i might have sold poems, not BIO. many (most?) people would rather be as independent as they are capable of until 'the End'.
    (continued) ..
    (Report) Reply

  • Bri Edwards (4/1/2018 11:31:00 AM)

    (continued) ... AND a cleverly designed (by me) urinal which emptied through a tube i put under the closed garage door and buried in the ground, under gravel, outside.
    i liked it there. i think i had a 'hotplate' to cook on, plugged into an electric outlet, provided. the unit probably was NOT meant for human habitation, but i didn't ask and i wasn't told. ha ha. it was following the breakup of my first marriage and i was conserving my resources! (continued) ..
    (Report) Reply

  • Bri Edwards (4/1/2018 11:29:00 AM)

    to MyPoemList, and maybe a showcase, though it is a bit longer than i prefer for a showcase.

    i once (for a couple of months before winter began) lived in a garage-type storage unit, in a row of units. one light bulb in ceiling, controlled by a timer switch, no 'running water, unless i fetched it elsewhere and ran with it) , no toilet (except for a large empty plastic paint pail with a plastic bag insert, (continued) ..
    (Report) Reply

  • Bri Edwards (4/1/2018 11:21:00 AM)

    Thanks, Laurie, for guiding me to this superbly-written observational story (ok, we can call it a poem 'cause it's in 'stanzas') .

    my ever-watchful eyes were peeled.....(and i DON'T mean skinned; i thought pealed was correct, but that relates to bells, often, not eyes or carrots) .....for errors/typos but i 'came up empty-handed' until i read the comment from Buried Alive [nice name! ! ! ]. thanks for the Poet's Notes. (to continue) ..
    (Report) Reply

  • (5/19/2017 6:31:00 PM)

    I have no rhymes when I read your words
    only tears
    such a very sad, moving story
    of this poor soul
    of hunanity who survived in the only way he knew how
    never losing his own humanity or sanity
    If there is a god in heaven,
    one of HIS Dughters has
    taken him in

    - a tribute to MR Mayor
    and all the others in this world
    just like him.
    (Report) Reply

    Laurie Van Der Hart (5/19/2017 11:11:00 PM)

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. Yes, he never lost his dignity or humanity.
    And you're right, his life was pretty good compared to millions of others. I am from Africa....

    23 Jesus said to him: “That expression, ‘If you can’! Why, all things are possible for the one who has faith.” 24 Immediately the child’s father cried out and said: “I have faith! Help me out where I need faith! ”

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Poem Submitted: Friday, May 19, 2017

Poem Edited: Friday, May 19, 2017

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