Three Lost Boys

The three pickled boys depicted in a church window at Barefreston, Kent

[This weekend is the Feast of Saint Nicholas. On the eve of his feast day on 6 December, we always send a poem to our friends from the Netherlands, who now live in Rhode Island. This year the theme of the poem is the legend of the three pickled boys, who are said to have been murdered by a butcher and hidden in a pickle tub. Saint Nicholas brought them back to life, and thanks to this miracle has always been recognised as the patron saint of children, the original Santa Claus. Mixed in with the miracle in this poem is the fact that we are currently moving house to a Victorian ground floor apartment, with all the labour that entails. You can find last year’s poem here.]

Three boys loitering
Underneath the floorboards
Eyes wide open
Staring at the dark.
Three boys leaning
On the broken plaster,
Staring at the brickwork,
Dreaming of the park.

Where’d they come from?
Not the slightest notion.
Somewhere warm, where
People knew their names.
Three boys crouching
By the broken hearthstone,
Cold and empty,
Staring at the flames.

Hammers thundering,
Saw-blades grating,
Scrapers smooth fresh
Plaster on the wall.
Music spirals
From the empty kitchen,
Dust-clouds rise from
Living-room and hall.

Someone’s working,
Warming up the building,
Beating back the chills of
Loneliness and loss.
Someone’s raising
Scaffolding and laughter,
Sweeping off the cobwebs,
Scraping back the moss.

One bright morning,
Sunlight in the bedrooms,
Three boys floating
Near the bathroom floor
Heard a key-bunch
Rattle at the keyhole,
Saw a face peer
Round the open door.

Bright eyes gleaming
See them for the first time,
Hands stretch out and
Lift them till they stand.
Three boys gabbling
To the lofty stranger
Tell their story
Clinging to his hand.

Three boys smiling
Lead him to the fireplace
Sit him down on
Piles of dusty bricks.
Soon his face is
Shining like a chestnut
As he feeds the
Flames with broken sticks.

Walker passing
Notices the firelight
Through the window
Of the empty flat.
Peeps in softly,
Sees decay and mildew,
Wanders homewards
Cogitating that.

Long years later,
Wanderers in darkness
Note the gleam of
Firelight in the glass.
Hear sweet singing
Filter through the window,
See the flat quite
Empty as they pass.

Three boys don’t care
What the world is thinking,
As folks point and
Whisper to their friends.
Tall Saint Nicholas
In his crimson costume
Feeds them, loves them,
Till the winter ends.

Saint Nicholas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *