Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What price this child

Picture if you will a photo
A photo of a town
A damaged, war torn town
Unrecognisable from any other
This town could be any one of thousands
And probably is

Picture in the centre, filling much of the frame
A building, a house
Broken, falling down
Its original design lost in the aftermath
Of a bomb, or bombs
Dropped by an enemy
The inhabitants had never met

Now picture in the foreground
Poking from out the rubble
A small hand, a forearm
The colour of the skin indeterminate
Obscured by blood and dust staining its surface
The face of the child unrecognisable
Beneath the debris
This child could be any child
Of any age
Of any gender
Of any race
But one child among millions

Picture all this, if you will
And then call this picture ‘price tag’
For this we are told is the price of freedom
This the price of peace
The death of children
Ours, theirs
But what price the life of this child

What price this child

And who decides this price of peace

A country whose own children fight
In an army that will kill more of them itself
Through miscalculation
Equipment failure
And human error
Than the enemy will ever see
And their names, too, will become numbers
Tabulation of acceptable loss
But one more price
In the fight for that we cannot win
Through war

But what price the life of this child
And do they think us so unwilling to pay it
That we would not forgo a meal to see once more his smile
That we would not risk the insecurity
Of reducing a military
That cannot protect us
To see her play again
Of limiting a deterrent that does not deter
To hear them all laugh again

But murder is nothing new
War is nothing new
It is a part of us
And has been for as long as our races can remember
And longer
Since man first learned that by bending his knuckles
Curling the tips of his fingers into his palm
He could turn the end of his arm into a club

And no country is without its evils
Its injustice
Its closet full of skeletons
For all colonisation is genocide
All succession, each claim to territorial rights
Is bloodshed
And all conflict gives death to those
Who did not chose the fight

But all I can ask is
What price the life of this child
This life
This potentiality unrealised
Never to run again
Play again
Never to grow
And laugh
And know love

This life extinguished
For reasons not adequately explained

Or any fault of this young corpse
Lying among the rubble
Its home has now become

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It goes so fast

Five years now it’s been
And I wonder why you don’t
Cross my mind almost every day
The memory is still sharp
The loss as painful as it ever was
Perhaps it’s self defence

There are associations
Interests that we shared
Books, movies, TV shows and games
Situations in a story
Reminiscent of our own
Which bring your memory back
Rekindle that ache in my chest
Fuel the tears forming in my eyes

Sometimes it’s when my eyes
Meet yours
In your picture on the
Funeral program fixed firmly
To my fridge
And at those times do we talk
Or I do at the least
But your memory is stark
And complete
Your responses to my assertions
My questions
Almost echo in my mind
But this too is but one more
Loss to feel

Five years now it’s been
Since you left us
And I know you didn’t mean to
I try not to hold it against
But the loss is still so sharp that
I wonder why you don’t
Cross my mind almost every day
Perhaps it’s self defence

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I've done my part

You ask me how I can justify calling my words poetry
I say I don’t, I have neither the will nor the expertise

You ask me how then can I accept others labelling it so
I reply that my freedom is to write how I will, theirs to decide what it means to them

Then you ask but what of form
I tell you that each product of my pen is structured by my life, follows the form of each experience, shaped by the life it describes, the mind that receives its message

You ask me then but what of rhyme
I respond that every word of every line echoes the call of my soul’s response to the moment they capture

Ah but what, you ask, of rhythm
I explain that each written offering follows the rhythm of my heartbeat, of the song of the universe as it falls on the ears of my soul

And you ask me then to tell you what I think poetry is
And I ask you to tell me what you think it is not

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Moving on

Another train
Another journey
Yet again moving towards.....or was it away
I can never remember
Am I moving towards a new life
Or away from an old one best forgotten
I don’t know
The memory of why I left already fades
I look at my ticket to see where this ride ends
Back at the station I had put all the money in my pocket on the counter and asked
“How far?”
The old man in the cage handed me enough change to coax dishwater coffee from a
beat-up old vending machine
And a ticket bearing the name of a town I don’t recognise
As good a start as any
I turn to the window as a train bound in the opposite direction goes past
And watch the world pass by through a succession of windows
A staccato, strobe-like vision reminiscent of ancient movie projectors
Played at the wrong speed
The observation appeals to me
As a metaphor for my own life, if nothing else
The train stops and I see a sign matching the name on my ticket
Hoisting my pack, I step out onto the platform
I breathe deeply, inhaling the scent of this new town
and wonder what awaits me this time

Monday, November 2, 2015

Subtle weaver

oh subtle weaver
daydream deceiver
perfidious purveyor of pejorative verse
your images are confusing
due to words of your own choosing
your able erudition is a curse

a life that tends to sublimation
‘oh woe is me’ yr proclamation
you profess to hardships as if aphoristic
an artist’s life though problematic
is for you epigrammatic
but truth is all yr woes are masochistic

you may say that this is repetitious
but like you I too am capricious
and my point methinks you can now plainly see
you lay claim to some sagacity
but I question yr veracity
so please pause and listen to my final plea

desist now all prevarication
do please eschew obfuscation

Saturday, August 15, 2015

That poem (2007)

It wasn’t that he was a bad poet
He was actually quite good
Most audiences listened and he’d even had the occasional request
But as he found new audiences that he had never before thought open to him
He started to feel the need to outdo himself each time
This was when he started to work on the great poem
The one that would stamp his mark on this world he’d found
At the back of bars and in cafés
He wanted it to have everything
All the great hallmarks of the heroes of the literary world
Imagery both great and accessible to the layperson
A poem that would bring poetry back into the public eye
He wanted to transform the audience
He had felt their applause before
He had felt their cheers before
But now he wanted to feel their silence
To cause them to pause
To think
To ponder
To experience the worlds that he would create for them

He worked hard at his great work in the silences between events in his life
Gave no hints as to what he was doing
Hidden even from those closest to him
He read great tomes
Dedicated to the study of the various schools of thought
Of poetry
Of literature
Poured all that he had into this one growing piece of his soul
And eventually it was finished

He wasn’t sure
So he held on to it for a while
Hid it from everyone until it hurt to look at
Then one day he did it
One day he held the audience in his hand
And caressed them
He held them up to the light
Carried them with him on a journey they never forgot
He showed them worlds beyond common imagination
He taught them how to dream
He taught them how to love
He taught them how to fly
He pulled down the stars and juggled them
Throwing in a comet or two for good measure
He captured the bard and all of his muses
Their ghosts almost visible on the stage behind him
And when he finished the landing was gentle
He cradled them in his arms
Crouched low in a whisper
Gently laid them down upon the earth
And then he was done

And was met with a silence that was palpable

Almost silence
He could hear their breathing
Could see a tear in more than one eye
Saw joy on faces that held only him in their sight
Stepping down from the stage to return to his seat he was greeted with handshakes
Pats on the back
And hugs
Some even kissed his cheek in their exuberance

Things changed a bit after that
At readings he attended he was asked to read ‘that’ poem
Some had heard it and remembered
Others had been told about it
He read it in pubs
He read it in cafés
He read it on television
He read it on stages all across the country
He was approached by publishers to print his book
Any book
As long as it had ‘that’ poem

One day someone noticed that they hadn’t seen him for a while
That he no longer came to gigs
And what a shame that was because they remembered the first time they heard ‘that’ poem
But he couldn’t read it any more
Couldn’t stand there and be dissected by audiences
By critics
By experts
Listening to the motions of his great work and illuminating each other with their ideas of what made it so
The secrets of its effect
He couldn’t listen to the cheers and remember what ‘that’ poem used to mean to him
What reading and writing used to mean to him
He couldn’t go back to the stage with ‘that’ poem
The one that was so much a part of him
The one whose words he knew like the beating of his heart
And read it again
And he could never hope to exceed it
Or be allowed to do less

So he changed his appearance a little
Dropped his last name
Wrote for himself
Frequented smaller stages where nobody recognised him
And the audiences were polite
They applauded when it was time
Cheered sometimes, and laughed
Said kind things to him
But they did not welcome him in the way that he had been welcomed before he wrote ‘that’ poem
They watched him on stage
Smiling inwardly to himself
A modest talent who seemed happy to stay that way
Never pushing himself much
Leaving the stage and the venue as quietly and as alone as he had entered
They did not reach out to him like others had before
It wasn’t that he was a bad poet
He was actually quite good
They just knew he’d never be great