The Cynic Route
© Kate O’Neil

Winner, 2017 Metro Hotel Ipswich International Award – Open Age Bush Poetry, Ipswich Queensland.

When we remember Grandpa we start to reminisce
about ideas he thought were fair, opinions he’d dismiss.
He said that truth is hard to find whatever the dispute
so if you’re thinking honestly you take ‘the cynic route’.
So while he sat and listened to the evening news reports,
he’d punctuate the stream of words with histrionic snorts.
He’d mutter if some evidence was sounding very thin,
‘What rubbish! Do they really think that we’ll be taken in?’
And if he heard it advertised that this or that was ‘free’
‘Go on! Now pull the other one’ he’d say to our TV.
You’d hear him say ‘Bah humbug’ when Christmas time was near
and jingle bells were jangling in his poor offended ear,
while frantic advertising kept the dollars whizzing round
as people searched the shops for gadgets certain to astound.
‘Can anyone suggest a gift that’s right for Aunty Joan?
And can we find a toy that ‘Little Johnny’ doesn’t own?
Tinsel, lights and baubles prompted nothing but a frown;
the season’s crop of Santas perched on thrones all over town
were treated to the ‘Hmmmph’ of Grandpa’s legendary scorn
and perhaps a muttered mention of ‘Oh glorious Christmas porn.’
He said that altruism was illusory at best
and called it ‘human conscience seeking temporary rest’.
Perhaps he tried to make himself exempt from such a claim
for I know his acts of kindness had a much more caring aim
and when he said the highest praise of women or of men
was simply being honoured as a ‘solid citizen’
he may have had in mind the claim we all-too-often hear –
that elevating people tends to make them less sincere—
that power corrupts and greed kicks in for more and more control,
and what was once a human is then nothing but a role.
So no surprise that politicians earned the most contempt;
Labour, liberal, red, blue, green – no party was exempt.
‘Bastards can’t keep bastards honest: that’s as plain as day;
You need to put the cynic’s check on everything they say.
You need to look behind their words, to always wonder ‘why?’
Is such suspicion justified? Would politicians lie?’
Expressed like that it sounds just like the classic cynic’s view
but though he scoffed at sentiment he’d give what praise was due
to kindnesses bestowed on him. He’d even recognise
that lurking in some human forms was sainthood in disguise.
We realised (but never said) he barked but didn’t bite;
The old curmudgeon had his style – he claimed it as a right.
He didn’t like bureaucracy, he didn’t like to queue
(but found the line would disappear if he began to moo.)
Pity help the vineyard that produced inferior red
or restaurants that failed to offer complimentary bread,
but while he said his chosen path was called ‘the cynic route’,
we thought this Grandpa pantomime was something of a hoot.
We noticed that he couldn’t quite obliterate his smile,
and knew the route he really took was called ‘the extra mile’.


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