The dummy by the window has worn
its hessian jacket longer than he remembers.
It still has pride of place among
the heavy bales which he'll roll out
for select customers, gripping the cloth
between finger and thumb as he might pinch
the cheek of a favourite grand-child.
The crack in the ceiling creeps
over that pale brown stain where a pipe leaked
and in the back of the shop his son
already middle-aged is machining a hem
for the bride's mother at the last wedding
the synagogue will see before revamp -
flats for the elderly. When he shuts shop
he'll buy matzos and pickled cucumbers
from the deli which has struggled to survive
all the years he's been here. A thread straggles
between his lips, the way a cigarette
might droop. In yellowed light
he stands there, small, equivocal,
Fifties patterns fading on his walls.
After whom four pubs in Glasgow are named
Who was Samuel Dow?
Did he brew fine ales?
Somehow I can't see it.
I picture him in frock-coat and stiff wing-collar
beetling his brow
over the Times or the Scotsman
in a litter of toastcrumbs, his tea
cooling beside him in a porcelain cup
or taking the bow
at a municipal dinner after giving
a two hour speech on the profits of boilermaking
in which he told three heavily laboured jokes
and mopped his brow
I bet he didn't allow
even his wife to call him 'Sammy'.
I see him seven years old, rebuking his nurse
for being over-familiar
shaking hands with his mother
before retiring to sleep
with a book of maxims by his bed.
At thirty taking his vows
in a stentorian voice
while his bride, cowed
under her tonnage of diamonds
'I do', not daring
Samuel Dow. The weight
of iron bridges
is in those syllables.
Where is he now?
And his fob and chain
his galoshes, his stovepipe hat
A C Clarke
First published in A.C. Clarke's second collection, 'Messages of Change'