Weekly Poem #201

Trial

A painful, seizing jolt running up the inside of the thigh,

A courtyard forms a canal for heavy, thrashing, boiling waves,

Hammering through his ribs again and again, eroding them

Until a naked nervous system quivers like a bundle of subdued lightning bolts.

This is real fear, fear with teeth, a huge, closed jaw towering over him,

An iron door slowly creaking agape, the airlock opening to the silent vacuum.

Feet cast in manacles, bruised shoulders wrapped in blighted garb

And a set of spear-tips leaning forwards behind him, blocking his escape.

Forward marching, slow awkward steps like a timid, broken animal

Being gently encouraged into the slaughterhouse and readied for death.

The rafters are packed with onlookers but the room feels empty as the void,

Eyes more like the hooded glow of sunlight struggling to negotiate morning fog,

Impotent, and devoid of all comfort, signal flares leading to the stand, the end.

To be told again and again that you’re a creature of legend, someone to be feared,

A man with so many skulls rattling about his ankles that they could form a pedestal,

Now so overcome with dread that he can barely even stand, let alone sit.

This is how legends end, shivering in the wake of new unfamiliar laws, miles from home,

In the grip of a nation he fought so hard to save his countrymen from, that he gave his all to defeat,

“More cruel than Herod”, someone had said. “Robber” “Thief” “Arsonist” “Murderer”

Names which hang heavy around his neck as the sweat pulls the blue shades of pride from his brow.

Given no occasion to speak, no chance to defend his actions or exercise his rights, he has none.

This was no law, this was theatre, parading the pantomime villain out for one last jeer

Before dragging him out by his ankles and strapping him to horses for the grand, gruesome finale,

Where every once of his flesh would be torn from the other, tarnished and destroyed until nothing remained.

The charges read, all the victories twisted as acts of malice, even as acts of treason,

He tries to speak out against that last accusation, voice failing somewhere deep in his battered chest

But the rafters erupt and his denials are drowned, before the final sentence drips from the judge’s sopping maw.

Stripped naked and dragged back out into the town he watches the doors close again, hears them slam,

The last sound that manages to find his mind before the cries of the mob envelop it, devour it.

Heels catching on cobbled ground, limbs shaking, eyes hollowed, noose awaited. This is how legends end.

Weekly Poem #193

Responding in Kind

 

What should I say? I ask you, how should I phrase it?

Standing ten feet tall across the chest of a dying man

After pressing a blade against his neck and pushing it through.

Fighting off that impulse to plug his wound and hold him steady,

Watching him writhe, choke, succumb to fear, and then the rest.

Silence just doesn’t seem good enough, does it?

A disdainful look and a corridor of silence for his whimpers to rattle down,

Throat growling and clattering like a tin case filled with ground soot

Mixed with foreign soil to take home and place on the mantlepiece,

A testament to an alien world he’ll never have to visit again.

Instead, he’ll die here, and the soil stays put, waiting for the blood to dry up.

A word of comfort? How can I say that everything will be okay?

When you stand over the precipice of a cold cavernous abyss next to a stranger,

How can you claim you know what’s beneath, if all you’re going to do is push them in.

It’s not going to be okay, bodies line the fields and long lives lie shattered beneath them,

Draped entrails of frayed destinies strewn across the dirty ground glinting, and fading,

Like an archive of hypothetical happy lives now vandalised and left for the vermin,

Smashed glass, collapsed shelves and shredded pages of kind words, calm words, loving words.

So what should I say? Am I sorry? Should I be sorry, flip the page upside down and now he thinks the same,

Standing over me watching me clutch helplessly at an oozing neck and waiting for death to set me free.

There’s no sorry here, we both acted out of fear and a split second set us apart,

For one final moment we both stood on a thin blade, digging into the arches of our feet, seeing which way we would teeter.

I went one way, and he the other, and now I’m standing here, and he’s lying there.

Please, help me figure out what to say. There must be words in some language to help me end this day,

Some combination of sounds, histories and feelings that will ease him and ease me,

I’m watching a man turn to stone and I can feel the boned fingers of his soul reaching out,

I’m the only one here to be with him as he dies and I have to offer him something, I can’t face those eyes.

I can’t stand the wideness, the bulging, pleading wideness of those eyes, trying desperately to cling to the sockets,

Before they drop back into the skull and let time take care of the rest.

Perhaps I should just smile, perhaps I should just smile and slowly walk away, perhaps it will awaken something,

Perhaps I can unlock some memory or crumb of comfort in his mind with that wordless smile,

And let him drift into an unending sleep with some sense of goodness in his mind, his fraction of a lifetime.

What should I say? No words are good enough, no words for the fear, the fury, the futility of it all.

We were brought here to fight for reasons we don’t even grasp, and then you ask us to search for words

While we stand across the bodies of men we never knew enough to hate and see them suffer

At our own hands again and again until it’s our turn to gaze skyward until the shutters close.

We don’t want to be here, and yet we carry on, say our prayers, write our letters and load our rifles,

We carry on, because there’s nothing else, whatever world rises after this, it isn’t for us.

What should I say? There’s nothing to say. We left our voices at home. We’ll never get them back.

 

Weekly Poem #120

Acidifier

 

The contents of this table could burn a city down,

They could create new life-forms or shatter divine designs.

An algae-infested basement in some forgotten Rockwell cavern,

Repurposed as a proving ground for cocktails of the cosmos.

 

Sewing molecules to vestibules to craft a cystine compound

Or splitting covalent bonds to tease the tissue into new energies.

All this and more with worked glass and super-heated gas;

While the world that was devours itself on the scorched, scourged surface.

 

Apply the acidifier, douse with ethanol, find the catalyst.

The ones and twos of an art that life created before man found it.

What’s he building in there? They’d ask if they weren’t so busy,

Mired in a war to hoard the last dregs of power for their wheels.

 

When the wells run dry you don’t suck the last moisture from the walls,

You move on, you forage for sources and you dig yourself a new well.

This is my dowsing rod, my chemical trail titled towards triumph.

Blood brands the streets crimson over my head whilst I toil.

 

War is so 20th century, an inexact science of botched understanding,

A conduit for stupidity to rattle down as it claims the lives of the innocent.

They’ll thank me when I’m done here, when I’ve crafted the spark of salvation.

That is unless I just poison them all, I haven’t decided which I’ll do yet.

Weekly Poem #96

Fairfax

 

The light panics and meanders

As I struggle to steady the flashlight

Between flickering, frightened fingers.

 

We had slipped unseen through Taramacho

Like a secret band of budding spies,

Following the screams of the fire engines.

 

The night was alive with sirens and searchlights,

Hoping to corral the chaotic aftershock,

But it was too late, the cat was out of the bag.

 

Was it a visitor from planet X?

Or a spy plane crawling with ravenous reds?

We were minutes, moments from the truth.

 

As we neared the point of no return

We were flanked by tanks, trucks and terror.

The army were scared, riled and rumbled.

 

As the haunted horizon snapped past my eyes,

I caught the first and last glimpse of glory.

A sickly green glow being packaged away.

 

The fortress strewn across the grass.

Twisted metal, torn tail, ravaged wing

As a hulking angel lay dead on White Hill.

 

Mere minutes went by before the locals swarmed

To offer help and goodwill whilst they probed for more,

But they were offered no kindness, nor quarter.

 

The army held them back with muzzle and malice

Whilst their men filed away amongst the scrap,

This was a mistake they were keen to erase.

 

Come the next morning the questions would come,

Conspiracies, commies, bikinis and battleships.

I was the lone outsider, the keeper of the truth.

Weekly Poem #79

Scythe

 

Bruising skin, shattered shins

The burning refuses to give in.

Crimson framed weary eyes

Fixed upon the dark, withering sky.

Blooded sand for a bed

That rests a weary old fragile head.

Paid his dues, no more pain.

The last of the smoke, ash and the flames.

‘Veteran’, a strange term,

There’s no retirement from this business firm.

There’s only one way out,

Waiting, scythe in hand, for your last bout.

 

Weekly Poem #72

Apollo

 

So here I stand

 

My thoughts started and ended there,

Mounted on the observation deck

Of the Herald Arctic Research Facility,

Gazing skyward at a red, dying star.

 

The world is an ugly patchwork,

Coated with new man-made nations

That cower upwards from rising oceans

But do not dare pierce the smog choked sky.

 

Our grey, staving planet will end.

It will end without dignity,

Burning away in a coat of sickness,

Dead satellites and celestial rage.

 

Nobody wanted to heed his pleas,

Everyone looked at them sideways.

To them, he wasn’t addressing the world;

He was speaking in codes to their fractions.

 

A sunspot heralded his fall,

The largest we had ever seen.

Then an ancient being, born of great legends

Was made flesh and truth in purest white fire.

 

Death Valley was his landing strip.

His giant body withering,

His beautiful face worn with tears of flame.

He lay across the sands as we gathered.

 

There were those of science, like me

And there were those of religion.

All were silent, all were fearful and still.

His voice shook the air like volcanic heat.

 

You have drawn too much strength from me,

I can no longer sustain you.

You have grown greedy, vile and dangerous.

My kind can’t carry on protecting you.

 

You all owe me a heavy debt

And I have come here to collect.

You can see how desperate I’ve become,

If I die, I will take you all with me.

 

We saw such promise in this world,

As we observed it from afar,

But you spat on us and squandered our gifts.

You have no pride or stature left to claim.

 

Consider this your last warning,

Revive your planet, with all haste.

It is the only thing that matters now.

Do not waste any time, you have none left.

 

Years passed and wars began to rage

Fueled by his potent fiery words.

Each side knew they had heard his real message

And clamored to justify all their claims.

 

Corpse piles rose bearing his grand name,

Ruined lands lay at his altar.

Yet he did not return or sound his voice

And the planet slowly wasted away.

 

Those of us who still saw reason

Could only plead and beg for change.

We toiled away to find better answers,

But then the Sun God came and gave us his.

 

So here I stand, watching him die,

Not knowing who else understands.

Perhaps this is the ending we deserve,

I wish I could know what will come after.

 

 

Weekly Poem #44

Bright Lights

 

A bare foot quivers like folded paper

As it hovers above a thorny thicket.

The quilting thrums of the finger on the microphone

Weave through sound barriers and arrive as distant gunfire.

He stands, frozen at the precipice and waits for an introduction.

A spotlight, a drum-roll, fireworks and sirens.

Charlie’s cane falls heavily to hand, weighed down by golden rounds

And the pork-pie hat is stifling, not much to be said for the new design,

Lacking for a brim, hued in green and shaped from harsh metal.

He’s watched other stars rush onstage and perform the dance.

The riddled, writhing Charleston of prat falls and shrapnel

Before giving in to the madness and corpsing at the end.

He feels the dry ice rise and choke him, hears the drum-roll call for him

And sees the spotlights search for him.

Showtime.

 

Weekly Poem #41

Debris

 

The world not will end with sheet metal

It will not end with burlap and round-head bolts,

Butane and bactrian brains coming to bigger blows.

The pride and prowess of our sacred scaffolds

Reduced to all the sanctity of a scattered lego set.

 

The world will not end with cannon fire,

Greek pyres or the mongers of war’s desires.

There will be no dedication to self-belief and deception

Or relegation to primal fears and lethal penetrations.

No fight, flight or fury can account for a cost so great.

 

The world will not end with anger.

No retrospective resentment or resplendent arrogance

Will shine the sheen on the choking cloud that does us in.

No sooth-sayer of misanthropy will lead the charge in a post-mortem suicide

That spans worldwide and allow us to be beautifully vilified on the final night.

 

The world will not with us.

 

Weekly Poem #37

June Terror

 

Plaid with padded shoulders and cufflinks

The suited populous prance for cover.

A saturated filmstrip of a mushroom cloud,

Awaiting fallout, destruction’s harsher brother.

 

A tie banded with emerald and sunspot orange

And catalog furniture pretensions.

Crawling belly-down through trauma’s realm

And flailing for ascension.

 

Your silhouette is chalked in puce,

Your hairline cuts fine curves

And you are a symbol of a time of terror

Which wrapped a noose around your Earth.

 

Weekly Poem #12

The Wrong Shoulder

 

It’s Independence Day tomorrow; they’ll be shooting off the fireworks in the park.

37 hours, 12 minutes and 31 seconds ago, that’s when you left.

You stumbled out of the back door clasping your cheek and crawled into my pickup,

My aviators left with you, my jack, my jaws of life and my Cannonball Plug.

You knocked over the gramophone on the way out, cracked Something for Everybody.

I can’t work without my truck, honey. We don’t take things without asking

Or did they never teach you that? Those harpies you call mom and dad,

They’ll have a thing or two to say about this, I’ve no doubt of that.

‘He was never no good.’ She’ll wheeze while he nods and lets his Stetson tip,

Numbed with cheap whisky and thoughts of getting home to bellow at Dwight again.

Is that what you thought when you turned across the wrong shoulder?

I was never no good? The way your eyes cut into me like wires, those eyes

Weren’t yours, the wrong eyes peering across the wrong shoulder.

You should have seen it, but you shouldn’t. When Young Stan made that

Same turn, before the black cloak wrapped around him and the tattered teeth

Of tank fire clamped down. Carved paths of hell’s cookery across his face

And just like that he was gone. You never knew him, you never knew Korea.

 

I did.

 

They sent me all over for it, do you remember?

Talk to Doctor Stanton, Doctor Smith, the kindly Doctor Walton,

They’ll see you straight. Never heard such bullshit, they saw crooked

And I saw skeletons, shattering against rocks into a rattling heap,

Skulls rolling over my shoes and carrying me back to the wretched past.

Prescribe me a pill for that, poindexter, and I’ll give you a fucking medal.

This pointed, proven machine is supposed to barbecue with

Friendly neighbor Jim and stroll the verge by torchlight, keeping watch

For pesky ‘punks’? I was man made weapon, with no reverse gear.

Then there’s you. You wanted to understand at first but you kept

Reaching for the wrong shoulder, wrong every time, I didn’t know how

To tell you but I tried. Then you stopped. Took a fire axe to our

Marriage bed and locked me away like bad little biting mastiff.

Muzzled, muted and irrelevant. A cloistered, coiled thing too wrecked

For the world outside, too damaged for the nuclear game plan, spent.

But what to do with a man like me? Service paid, duty done,

I had my parade and now I’m a drifting phantom of a bygone nightmare.

The good little mastiff beat the wolves back and now nobody wants him,

His growls frighten the little children and his eyes are too honest.

 

I’m used up.

 

Just come home, OK? I’ll behave this time.

It was just the shoulder, honey, it wasn’t the left or the right, it was the wrong.

I can’t take it, the wrong shoulder; the blade is too sharp, too familiar.

I can’t cry, I can’t speak, that’s not what I know, I fight my problems.

I never wanted to fight you. I never wanted to beat you.

You’re not the enemy; I’ve looked down iron sights at dead men

Half a world away but I can’t look you in the eye over that shoulder.

Somewhere, rotting in a burnt out Asian field there’s a rusty gear

That I missed and I can’t get it back. The toothy gear that could

Open up wide and remind me what love is, where home is

And who you are.

 

Come home honey, I’m so sorry.

 

Put your hand on my shoulder.

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