John’s Poem

IMAG0468Captain’s Log 06/05/16 12:38

I walk over to John’s house and try to drop off his poem before I go on holiday. It strikes me that this is the first time I’ve ever door-to-door’d without a big, thick winter jacket on. It’s the first summer outing of Door-to-Door Poetry! It makes it feel different somehow, maybe because it’s warm and the sun is out. People talk to each other in the sun, don’t they? Whatever the reason, the whole act of knocking feels somehow less intrusive.

No answer at John’s. I leave my ‘Sorry I Missed You’ poem with a phone number on, asking for a good time to come back.

Captain’s Log 21/05/16 14:12

No text or call from John, so I decide to have one last go. I remember which house it is, it’s number 13, because I thought that made it spooky when the door opened without me knocking. A young lad answers, who might be John’s son. I ask if John is there and he says no. ‘Does John live here?’ I ask, he says no. Now, this boy isn’t so young that he wouldn’t know his dads name, he’s maybe 12. Feeling a bit confused I say ‘OK’ and he shuts the door.

I stand under a nearby tree. Have I got the right address? Well it was definitely 13, on account of how weird that was. No, John must live here. So what do I do now? I could post it through the letterbox? But the boy just said he didn’t live there, so he’s not going to want me posting something through the door. Maybe I should just give up?

As I think this, John appears at the door. ‘Hi John, I’ve got your poem,’ I say. ‘Sorry?’ he sounds confused. ‘I’ve got your poem.’ ‘Sorry?’ he says again after a long pause, his brow furrowed. It’s been a while since I saw him, over a month, I think he might have forgot about me. I feel guilty  for confusing John like this; John who seemed so Zen and wise and grounded when we last met. ‘Remember,’ I say, ‘we talked about…’ Now, at this point, I temporarily forget what Judo is called, making me look even more insane than I already do. I try to cack-handedly mime what a Judo player does, looking more like a socially awkward Jackie Chan. ‘Judo! We talked about Judo and I said I’d write you a poem.’ ‘Ahhh yes!’ he seems less apprehensive now. ‘Is it a good time?’ I ask. ‘No, today I’m very busy,’ he says. ‘OK, well I could just leave it with you and you can read it later?’ He says yes and takes the poem, giving it a quick glance. He looks pleased. He tells me he’s going to show it to his Sensei, which makes me feel quite honoured.

I explain it’s not about Teddy like I said it would be, it’s about something inspiring that John said. Then he asks if I have a phone number, so I write it on the bottom of the poem. We shake hands, in that way that someone shakes your hand when they’re grateful for something, and not just doing it because they feel like it’s the right thing to do. Then he says something which I find strangely heart-warming: ‘I’ll call you whenever I need you’. In any other circumstance, this could sound a little presumptuous. Either way, I don’t think John speaks English as a first language, so I suspect this is a slight mistranslation. Despite this, I kind of wish it wasn’t. I’m happy for John to call me whenever he needs me, so I say ‘great’ and I really mean it.

As I walk home though, I start to wonder what he might need me for? I’m not much of a fighter and I definitely don’t know Judo. Maybe I’ll be the Judo Centre’s Poet in Residence? Could I do that without having a clue about the sport? Maybe John will teach me… And I’ll be really good at it! That’s an angle. Maybe there’s a Fringe show in that. Rowan McCabe: Judo Poet

The Next Day

John answered his front door
before I even knocked,
he was ready for me
like a Puma.
I asked him
Who is the best Judo player?
He said
it could be anyone,
me today
you tomorrow
the next day
someone else.

It’s a strange frame of mind
to find here
surrounded by billboards,
celebrities on pedestals:

That talent is just effort
dressed up in the clothes of admiration;
that a winner is nobody
without someone to beat;
that greatness moves freely
between wrestling bodies
in the echoing halls of the human race.


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