In the last years of his life, Ronnie Barker
Recorded induction tapes for new inmates.
The Prison Service employed dear old Fletcher
To reassure those first timers whose criminal stance
Brought offence, that there would be endurable days
And nights to come, braced for comfort,
Or if not comfort, then purpose, in which
Ronnie Barker’s voice secured friends.
Those first nights in stir, may have perhaps
Swilled the porridge of panic and fear and persuasion
Spread like vomit, or bile through the gut – revealing
That the worst might happen, so, Fletch, sounding
A good deal older now, less commanding, did his best
To convince them that life resumes while doors shut.
Clearly we need Ronnie now. A mug of toilet roll
Would appease us,
Or filling the glass from this distance, with or without
His flat feet; words from the wise, or the correct
Comedian’s counsel; laughs laced through living
That makes life’s tapestry feel complete. So, harken Barker,
And Les, Spike, Monty Python, Eric and Ern, Tommy Cooper
And all of the forgotten ones, too, who regardless
Of the real forged a flare for the adult, to lead them free
From danger and steal some of the chill from gloom’s blue.
Come back Pete n’ Dud! Conversely, your soft side
Is needed. We can savour the edge again once
We’ve strengthened, but for now at least, we’re confused.
Or perhaps its just me, but I’d welcome such returns,
I admit it. I can hear the old music as I try to work out
What to do. Fashion be damned. Everything now
Becomes equal. A return to lost rhythms
As we begin marching now in our cell space
To some half remembered Themetune.
David Erdos April 2nd 2020