The Gaffer


His place was in the warehouse. There he stood
Beside the counter, scoop in hand, and weighed
Out sugar in blue bags; nor was he wooed
By any words of mine to cease his trade,
But tirelessly and with a rhythm set
To his own pace he scooped and filled and placed
The bag upon the pan.

I see him yet,
Sturdy and short, an apron round his waist,
Looking nor right nor left save when he stooped
Over the dwindling sack down at his feet,
When with a practised flourish out he scooped
Into the two-pound bags his produce sweet.

His was a quiet mien, unhurried speed,
And mild rebuke for all who could not wait.
To callow shop-assistants paid no heed,
Intent upon his scales as cool as fate.
Not for him the important counter walk
Out into the shop where customers were served;
He shunned the airy persiflage, the talk,
The banter; from his duty never swerved.

Nine of the clock till noon, from one till six,
Standing and filling bags, that was his life;
But in his lunch hour he would try to fix
Me on the piano while he plied his knife,
And listening to my ever faltering hands
Would munch and nod his balding head;
And sometimes talk of orchestras and bands,
But mostly sway in silence as he fed.

He sometimes spoke of cities, other lands,
And would go back to USA, he said;
But that he never did. When he retired
It was to a small-holding in the west,
Out Dalby way, where he to naught aspired,
Content to potter free till time for rest.

And when I asked him what in life had brought
Him pleasure most, he smiled and raised his cup,
And looking through the window at a thought,
Said, “Weighing up, my ghilley, weighing up!”