Back in the day of music hall, the narrative poem or monologue was a popular form of entertainment. Exponents of the art were the likes of Dan Leno, Marriott Edgar and Stanley Holloway. In more recent times, Mike Harding performed many a marvellous monologue.
As part of a poetic experiment for my performance JOKE!, I decided to take a joke I really liked (a mucky joke, as my mother would have said) and convert it into a narrative poem. The result was quite interesting as a joke is a distillation of a story into its shortest form, so I had to ‘fill it out’ by creating a backstory for the characters in the joke. Story or narrative is everything in this poem so don’t expect deep and meaningful imagery.
As most of my poems have a punchline, I thought the idea might just work. See what you think.
THE SCHOOL REUNION (2014)
It’s been forty years since that final day
When at Truthwell Secondary Modern;
Three girls, the self-acclaimed Stardust Sisters
Tried their very best to snog Mr Southern.
They knew all the lyrics to Bowie’s songs
And liked to parade round like their hero.
‘Smiling and waving and looking so fine’
Within one year all contact was zero.
They’d all swore an oath to stay friends for life
When happenstance got the better of them.
Their childhood schemes were but dreams it seems and
They never saw one another again.
Yvonne left first when Mum and Dad split up
And no-one knew just why Sue moved away.
Dee had settled down with a local lad
And still remained in the town to this day.
Forty years later an email arrives
From some girl in their class that they hated –
An invite to a school reunion
RSVPs much appreciated.
To attend raises all kinds of questions –
‘How will I compare with those that I meet?’
‘Have I achieved anything with my life?’
‘Will my failings make me feel incomplete?’
Thus prompted they all signed up to Facebook
(Up until now all three had rebuffed it)
To see if their friends were still beautiful,
Had put on weight or God forbid…snuffed it!
But social media backgrounds are sketchy…
Yvonne, married, proficient at Judo;
Sue was divorced and sang lead in a choir
And it turned out that Dee was a widow.
On the day of the school reunion
All three of them were jitterbug nervous
‘What shall we wear?’ ‘Should we lay off the booze?’
So fearful of how others observe us.
Separate taxis bring Yvonne and Sue
Who want to arrive with minimal fuss
At the Overlooker’s Working Men’s Club.
Dee makes her way there by No 5 bus.
As introductions are politely met
The circling alumni intermingle.
Complete unknown becomes recognised face
As the flames of memory rekindle.
When they meet, those first impressions are made.
Yvonne is dressed in designer styling;
Sue is sensible from head to her shoes
And Dee arrives radiant and smiling.
Tentative questions are batted away
As they spar to determine their status.
Each takes a swig of their large glass of wine
As a means to dispel the hiatus.
The three of them bag a secretive booth
‘We’re getting on well’ each one of them thinks.
Reminiscence turns to conspiracy;
Parting only to replenish drinks.
“Do you remember we all loved Bowie?”
“The Stardust Sisters!” they shouted and stood
“Anyone still buy his music?” says Sue
“His latest, ‘The Last Day’ is really good.”
“Heavy Metal was all you heard at ours”
Laughed Dee, “the poor neighbours had to as well”
“What about you, Yvonne, who do you like?”
“All sorts, me…I’m really into Adele.”
“On Facebook it says you’re married Yvonne.”
This is Dee who seems most eager to know
“Yes I’m married to Clive, he’s a doctor.”
“Oooh! Imagine that!” the other two go.
“Doctors often marry doctors,” says Dee
“So could it be that you’re a doctor too?”
“Er…yes!” says Yvonne, “we work together.”
“That must be quite nice.” “Yeah, it is, thank you.”
“So what about you?” says Yvonne to Sue
“You certainly left town in a hurry…
A woman of infinite mystery,
You are…a regular Mata Hari.”
“Sadly, James and I couldn’t have children
Our only baby was our Boxer, Biff
We split up, I went to uni became
A librarian at Aberystwth.”
“Oo, did you go to university?
All those drugs and late-night parties”, says Dee,
“I’d have liked to have done summat like that.”
“Not really” says, Sue, “I was 43.”
“Now it’s your turn, Dee!” say the other two.
“Well do you remember, Danny Witney?
A couple of school years older than us…”
“Yes, he had a motorbike, didn’t he?”
“I met him at Bradshaw’s Engineering
Canteen, my first job after leaving school
We started courting, saved up and got wed
Had a West Coast honeymoon…in Blackpool.
He got paid well, I didn’t need to work.
Had three lads who’ve now got kids of their own.
They’ve all kept me busy after Dan passed
He was the only man I’ve ever known.”
You’d laugh, he had these performing budgies
For his club act, he were a magician.
A good bloke…I never wanted for owt
We were happy and I really miss him.”
The drink flows as each becomes indiscreet
Small revelations no longer ring true.
Their giggles become more and more raucous
As each one becomes the girl they once knew.
Dee shocks the other two by telling them
That Dan her husband was quite well endowed…
And he could do a trick with his budgies.
“I can just see him now, ever so proud.”
“What did he do? Tell us, what did he do?”
Shrieked Sue and Yvonne, as if they’d been shot.
“When aroused he could get seven budgies
To perch side by side on his ‘you know what’.”
Yvonne and Sue both scream out so loud that
The whole of the room stops in mid-sentence
And there once again just like it was then…
Power…in that five seconds of silence.
Back in white school blouses, tied at the waist
Short skirt, tan tights and long white cotton socks.
Without a care…and back at number one
The Stardust Sisters on Top of the Pops!
As the evening comes to its denouement
Yvonne comes back having bought the last round.
The three of them promise to keep in touch
Making the most of their friendship re-found.
Yvonne struggles and tears well in her eyes
As she puts her money back in her purse.
“But to do that I’ve got to be honest
I’m not a doctor. I am just a nurse.”
“Well that’s just as good in my book” says Sue.
“It’s much harder, no offence to your chap
“Doctors are respected” says Dee, “Nurses…
They don’t half have to put up with some crap.”
“Now then, what’s up with you? says Dee to Sue,
While helping Yvonne put on her jacket.
“You look like someone who’s just lost their purse
And then found a lottery ticket!”
“Yvonne’s right, we’ve had such a lovely time…
Like her I’ve something to get off my chest.
If I want to remain being your friend
Then there is something I need to confess.
“On that last day at school I was pregnant
And that’s why I left all of a sudden”
“Who was the father? asked Yvonne and Dee.
“It was our games teacher.” “Not, Mr Southern!”
“We’d been seeing each other in secret;
Keeping it quiet to safeguard his job.
He left to coach soccer in the US
And muggins was left here all on her tod.
When they discovered my predicament,
Instead of taking it up with the school;
My parents, well they felt so ashamed that
My Dad put in for a transfer to Goole.
So, my Jason was born out of wedlock;
This was a long while before I met James.
Then when it turned out we couldn’t have kids…
Well our marriage couldn’t cope with the strain.”
Now Jason’s a stand-up comedian.
He’s been on ‘Live at The Apollo’ twice
As his mother I couldn’t be more proud
And it’s been worth all the self-sacrifice.”
A palpable silence consumed the three
Now it was Dee’s turn to look all rueful.
“No, you’re both right!” she said, her face downcast
“I too haven’t been entirely truthful.
When I said my husband liked to line up
Seven budgies on his…you know…down there
Well the one that perched itself at the end
Had to lift one of its legs in the air!”
© gray lightfoot