Mischief Night

The weeks when late autumn drifts to early winter has always been one of my favourite times of the year. A season of mists, acrid woodsmoke and,as a child, a time to go roaming under the cover of darkness through the village, exploring the gennels (backalleys) and paths. Mischief Night was more important in the decades before ancient Halloween traditions returned via the USA. The date of it’s application varies across the North and the Midlands but in my home village it occurred on the 4th of November, the Eve of bonfire night. It was a night of transgression, chaos and disorder-the big village bonfires had to be guarded or they would be set off a day early. Pranks were played and risks taken-it had a nefarious edge that sets it apart from today’s more gentle and civilized Halloween festivities. Hopefully this poem captures something of the flavour.

 Mischief Night

 

One long gone mischief night we slipped out

 

Full of tricks and lairy for random fun

 

To tie doors to bin lids, little more

 

Than knocking doors, down long dark alleyways

 

Tipping bins, alert for fighting dogs

 

Dashing back down narrow gennels

 

Catching our breath in the teeth of night.

 

 

You, with your long white legs, your black welly boots

 

Duffle coat imbued with scents of coal smoke

 

Your eyes full of fizz like sherbet lemons

 

Blue as some distant summer horizon

 

That you were destined never to reach.

 

 

There are no consolations, no reasons

 

Call it fate if you will, the random noise

 

Simmering somewhere on the edge of space

 

That would skewer you at thirty five

 

And slowly squeeze each drop of hope from you

 

Leaving only vague shadows of your dreams.

 

 

This mischief night you are so alive

 

And furiously reckless with your time

 

Fuelled with an eclectic mix

 

Fish bits, big fat mushy peas

 

Rushing, unknowing, into the future.

 

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