History Lessons

after Eventide by the Faith Brothers

At the first opportunity, I dropped history
lists of dates of kings, queens and gilded greats, handed
out from books by teachers who looked just as down
about it as we felt. It spelt boredom. But I like
it now. Dig, and history is more broad and big
than that. Now I seek out my sisters’ and brothers’
stories, walk their streets and wear their clothes

I see those lazily written off as crazy women and madmen
because they demanded what we now take for granted and
I look in the overblown shadows of tyrants and find giants
who told the likes of me and you to not make do with castoffs

I uncover the others, those whose means were stretched
and faces etched with both the scars of struggle and
the laughter lines of comradeship. I touch with care their frayed
leaflets, handwritten minute books and letters, or
grained photos and film, in toilers’ raiment not tailormade

Why invent the wheel again when the wheelwrights left us the
plans and the trade union banners they made? The news
papers of the day record the fixtures and scores of
the matches played, the catches made and the
battles waged between the rich and the poor, the old
laws and the calls for the rules to be redrawn. The world
existed before us and will exist after us too. The onus hangs
on us to make the history of the future, to sink roots on
which further progress grows, to stitch the slender
thread from those days to these, to stand on the shoulders
of those who cut the keys and unlock the doors that block us now.


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