Poem #20 from Small Town Kid

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late october

the heat of the days
is rising

in scattered paddocks
fallen branches
old and dry
are being gathered and heaped

car tyres
collected through the year
are strategically placed
at the bottom

in the centre


paper boys are collecting
from the newspaper shop in town
where mr carter is the chief supplier
for the town

of red devils
in different shapes and sizes

in tom thumb strings
and wrapped packets
of ha’penny
and giant tupenny bangers

rockets and spinning wheels
shoe boxes fill
ahead of time
with occasional pistol cracks
here and there
to test the merchandise

excited discussions are being held
in the schoolyard
about plans and preparations

about the best ways
to extract one half
of a doubled wick
to extend it

how to twirl together two
or even three or four
similarly treated explosive devices
to create formidable weaponry

discussions about the ways
to seal a big banger
in a can
for underwater experimentation
and the creation of submerged booms
and rising spouts
of dirty yellow water


early november

the possible threat
of total fire ban
as potential catastrophe

mountains of raised wood
in the paddocks
crowned with effigy
and scarecrow
rise all around the town
with still more fuel to be added
while the days last

arsenals have been formed
gathered and stored


the fathers of those
without enough pocket-money
to lay in a stash
are badgered without mercy
almost to the point
of revealing a secret hoard
too early
in the face of such sweating anxiety

but the jumping jacks stay hidden
or are simply denied
until the time is right
and the day has come
at last

in the fading light
the bonfire
on the far side of the gorge
is touched off
to blaze red at the town
and signal that the time
is now

and suddenly
it’s fire everywhere
and the people glow

dads are drinking beer
under pressure
to get a bottle-launcher
for the rockets to fly into the air
and explode
the little ones stumbling backwards
in awe

while the tom thumbs rattle
and the rat-a-tat sound
establishes the tone
for cracker night


and I am off
with my swag-bag on my shoulder
to visit half a dozen places
where the thick black stench of rubber
burning slow
is my guide

throwing ha’penny bangers
as close as I dare
to make a kid
concentrating hard on a short wick
jump high
almost out of his skin

and chasing after duds
that didn’t explode
as they should

searching for a second chance
to relight a remnant fuse
fanning it back to sputtering life

also a chance
to go deaf
as it explodes
right beside my ear

I can’t hear a thing
except the bells
but I’m still blasting away
on the far side of town
until the fires die a little
and the crowd
is starting to go home

a couple of tupenny bangers
and a short detour
to blow the deputy headmasters mailbox
is an annual event
and he’s long practiced
at straightening its swollen metal sides
next morning

I’ve still got a couple left
better not let them off
right now
there’s a message
in the silence of the night
that fireworks
are over

we’ll be scouring paddocks
for the duds and the squibs
to break in half
till the black powder shows
and then light them
to make an angry fizzer
for a moment
until it’s gone

the tires still burn
and glow
to show us where the action was
and the ringing in my ears
like cracker night
is passing
from my mind

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 21: pumpkin rock terrorists



7 thoughts on “crackers

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