The Ballad of Little Nate [poem]

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When Nathan D. was just a little boy
his parents tried out every ploy they could
to stop him touching fires and stoves.
But everywhere he went, his little hands
would reach out roving for some burns.
They thought he’d never learn to do
what’s right (as right was, in their view).
Forever putting hands on red hot things
(desiring as they did to keep their son
on tightly tied-up apron strings)
they soon assumed he was a special
psychiatric case and would, if things
continued as they were, bring on the family
ignominy and neighbourhood disgrace.

One day, young Nate had looked them frankly
in the eyes and asked them straightly why
they thought they had the right to censor
what he does in life. They said that it’s
“because we are your parents and
your parents know what’s best for you.”
“You don’t at all”, said little Nate, as they,
astonished, heard their own son say to them:
“I’ve put you to the test. The day has come
for full disclosure of the rest of what I’ve tried
to say for years, but hadn’t had the go-ahead.”
“Never once”, the little boy went blithely on,
“have you directly asked me why I love to
suffer burns and other kinds of bitter pains.
You just assume it’s a mistake or wrong —
as if I’m likened to you as a broken song —
though lately you’ve begun to think I’m mad or
something’s programmed badly in my brain.”

They exchanged glances then they looked
at little Nate again. “Okay then… tell us,”
said his mum and dad who thought at least
they could have pride in how their son
was bright, though Nathan didn’t really like
how much his parents lived through him as an
extension of themselves and seemed to have
no real life of their own, apart from going to
“jerkly work”, as Nathan put it in his head.
Somehow, he thought, to slave like that
day after day with no fulfilment gained
in any way at all, apart from buying stuff
which mostly wasn’t needed, wasn’t right.
In any case, they still were poor, although
they meant well and his father now was
always tired through working nights.

So little Nate (who lately had epiphanies)
then said to them politely: “Please sit down.”
With open-mouthed astonishment they sat
themselves down on the sofa which was
worn along the arms (“One of its special charms”
his mother used to say, forgetting that she’d
said the same thing almost every day).
The lad then closed his eyes and took a breath
and in that moment like a thunderbolt
he clearly saw the manner and the time
and place in which he’d meet his death,
which in itself would be the consequence
of who he is and what his mission was.
Now everything made perfect sense:
The burden that he’d felt since birth;
the strange ambivalence he’d had between
the necessary pain in every cell but yet, as well,
that quiet knowledge of his own self-worth.

His parents sat before him in a trance.
Although this little boy had led them on
a merry dance and, knowing as they did,
that they were well out of their depth,
they knew instinctively their son somehow
was not quite of this world; and as his
message to them gradually unfurled
they felt at once afraid and reassured.
Their son then looked at them with pity
and compassion in his heart and in his eyes
were little tears of thankfulness that they
had played their part in work which must
be done (though at that time they had no
consciousness of what that was and only
knew their little son was alien but wise).

“I understand you think you must protect me
from myself and everything affecting me
or else I will be injured, maimed or worse.
But, honestly, you need to know I won’t.
There will be things in life I must endure —
things beyond your understanding now
but nonetheless each time I put my hand
on something burning I am priming and
conditioning myself to learn to take it in
my stride. With pain I know that I’m alive
— not zombielike! With pain my full sense
of uniqueness thrives and yet, besides,
the pain I get from touching things today
is nothing when compared to what will
come my way in later years.”

On seeing how his parent’s faces froze into
a shape resembling more than merely shock
he said: “This world will soon be overtaken
by a force of darkness so intense that chaos
and disorder and furore will run amok.
They’ve shown me this and what I’m
here to do. But please don’t be alarmed.
It’s just the birth-pains of a changing universe
and all things must go hugely worse before
they can get better and align themselves
with goodness, light and love and did they
know that all of this has been revealed in
countless letters from above, as sent by
goodwill messengers of many times,
or angels (as the word of origin reveals if
etymology and provenance are unconcealed).

His mum and dad could barely take it in.
They’d had some hints and little glints
of this in words they’d heard when
Nathan spoke before. But never had they
thought it was for real — just the ramblings
of a fevered mind or spinning wheel of
childish fantasies, imagination rampant
from the books he made them get him from
the library which they didn’t understand.
“You’re just a little boy,” his mother said.
“How could you know these things? And,
if they’re true, what will the future bring
to me and you and dad and all our friends?”
“And who is ‘they’,” his father added with
the kind of a frown parental anguish lends.

Then Nathan wore a soft and gentle face.
Without a trace of tremor in his voice
he told them of his wardrobe-living friend
and reassured them that he wouldn’t have
to fend all for himself as not only would
help come from another world of which
they’d never dreamed but when he’d grown
it wouldn’t only be just him but there would
be an army of them opening the gateways in
the minds of those who’d listen and receive
and portals running from this world to more
would then be breached by forces way
beyond what most of us can presently, as
things stand with our state of mind, conceive.

And so it was that every word which Nathan
shared that day became, in time, reality —
a world enmeshed in chaos, tumult, confusion
and totalitarian brutality. His parents lived to see
that fall, descent into the madness of it all and
marvelled at the way that entropy, depravity
and darkness can be used by principalities to
engineer a world free from those pains, a universe
restored to what it once had almost been but
had to go through cradles of disaster to perfect
itself again (as it had done so many times before).

When years went by, inside his notebook he inscribed:
“For perfect worlds are not created instantaneously
but must be forged through aeons of experience
where darkness is endured until, by choice, it is
eschewed; and creatures will for once and for all time
acknowledge freely from their souls that ‘matter’, if
deprived of spirit, replicates itself, corrupt, not just in part
but right the way into the heart, as all will one day know”.

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© Alan Morrison, 2014the_ballad_of_little_nate.jpg

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