Thursday, December 31, 2009

Foolish Wine





















When the fool begins to play the lover 
the wiser fool's the fooler of another:
none other than his wiser muse amused
who delights in the foolish fool abused.
A muse provokes the poet when she's mute
her fingers toying with her unstrung lute,
as passions fruit hangs heavy on the vine,
the press of love is filled with foolish wine.
Speak, from the belly of your instrument,
let us hear the depths of your heart's intent,
beat upon the frets of passion's rhythm,
stir up foolish hearts and all  those with them
who cast wit aside in passion's favour;
foolish wines breathe the most heady flavour. 


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bookend






















Out of this now rises that future when
this now becomes the shadow we call then,
a conundrum in the clay of being
smeared by time and moulded into meaning.

Within each now a world is built anew,
complete, entirely in itself a view
of that ego striving and remaking
heart-beaten paths between now and dying

Images, sounds and sense rise up to make
a dazzling panoply, just for the sake
of preserving that teeming bag of skin
and wayward journey to that carnal sin.

Yearning nomads on the road to nowhere
we monads flee the here and now to where
our gonads lead us on a merry chase
to that inner land, our most happy place.

Words rise unbidden and conjoin to form
those chains of meaning that define the norm
by which we know the world is what it seems
and not some supernatural land of dreams.

Words rattle on the ear like passing trains,
riding rails of discourse forged in our brains,
towards destinations not of our choice
determined by some dark, unconscious voice.

The distant now that was our beginning
marked in units of our planet's spinning
will become the bookend of our season
and, between, a book that had no reason.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Lady Earth





















Our Lady Gaia
hallowed be thy name,
may your reign continue
and your ways remain the same
in Heaven as they have always been.
Give us our daily sustenance
and forgive our transgressions
as we must forgive yours against us
and lead us not into unreason
but deliver us from ignorance.

Our Mistress, and only home
foundation of our being,
protect us with your breath
from the wrath of your Master,
round whose awful fires you dance and turn,
who fecundates your body from afar.
Between the circuits of Venus and Mars
you blindly follow him, your shining Sun
among those distant and too many stars
turning slowly in spirals of despair.

We, your youngest children, are myriad,
our small fires burn away your precious breath,
mingling your life inseparably with ours,
tiny stars we blaze and quickly fade
but together feed insatiably
upon your withered breasts.
In your youth, you spawned monsters,
now petrified or burning on our pyres,
and the trillion eyes of the smallest things
that watch your skies, not knowing hope.

Obedient to your voracious laws
we have lusted and consumed your wealth,
enjoyed your bounteous ease of youth,
and suffered from your moody ways,
the pains of drought  and joys of better days.
Gaia, always fickle and inventive
we must now face your mindless enmity
your finest progeny cast out
as you endlessly create anew,
blindly shuffling your genetic cards.

When our last wanderer sinks down,
exhausted from your cloudy temper,
and mingles with your teeming soil,
who then will praise your cornucopia?
Millennia, aeons must pass away
before new sentient progeny
could rise triumphant from your hardy womb,
and notice that the rocks bear faint traces
of our kind, who share what we call the mind.
How long would you allow them to endure?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Loggerheads






















Behind the mask the supreme egoist
flaunts himself upon the stage of comic art,
no crimes too great to shuffle off with wit
are absent from his merry masquerade.

Childish fingers grip the dripping wafers,
melted ice-cream running down upraised arms:
the mothers lift the smallest up to see
the ire that reigns within the human heart.

Crouched down within the red-striped canvas stage
the Professor jerks the loggerheads around
to the squawking sound of his swazzling reed,
while seagulls feed on scraps upon the ground.

What journeys the hunchback has undergone,
since his surprising birth from Zeus's thigh,
from Greece, through Rome and France to his new home,
washed up and confined on England's windy shores.

Mean, vicious and crafty, Pulcinello
struts, hunched over, with timid Cockerel step,
pretending to be stupid, but clutching
a club behind his back, ready to strike.

Nose nearly touching chin, he talks without
pausing, his rictus grin beguiles the crowd,
who cheer his escapades and sympathise
with his vicissitudes and suffering.

The ancient plot has been transformed by time
and place, where clown tries to befriend Toby
the dog, who bites Punch on the nose and old
Scaramouche beats Punch until Punch fights back.

And so it goes, with endless violence
our hero murders wife and child, doctor,
constable and even the hangman too
when they try to bring our hero to justice.

Every man and woman looks on, knowing
in their hearts that the cruel blows rained down
on Punch's crooked back will be answered
ten fold by the undefeated peasant clown.

What better education for the child,
as foil to mild doctrines of religion,
than the knock-about fun of Punch and Judy
that tells the awful truth of human life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Valhalla



















Aaron could see from the window monitor that the Earth had shrunk to a grey dot, set in a black sea punctuated by glistening stars. The biggest shock, though, was the overpowering brilliance of the sun, electronically muted to protect the eyes of the travellers. Born after the destruction of the old atmosphere he had never seen the Sun before, except as a brighter patch in the daytime sky. The Moon and the stars were no longer visible beneath the dense clouds that now wreathed the Earth. Everything was grey and gloomy, but often punctuated by violent storms that lit up the clouds from beneath as the torrents of rain washed everything away but the giant cities of the survivors and the matted forests in which they were embedded.

When the blue ticket had been delivered by special courier from the Retirement Commission it had been a shock: fifty-seven was hardly old, even in the long established pyramid of Citadel Nine. He had heard about the great ships that left on a regular basis, but had taken little notice except when one of his colleagues had been summoned. Dora, his wife, had been shocked of course, and had hardly stopped weeping since the truth of their separation had sunk in. He had tried to explain that it was a necessary service to society, like the colonists on Mars who could never return, but they both knew the voyage on the black ship had a quite different purpose.

The lottery was fair, or so he believed, a privilege really in recognition of his public service. As a physicist, he had been involved in the fusion breakthrough that had replaced the nuclear plants that powered the pyramids. This had made life much more secure and had delivered virtually unlimited power to safeguard the Citadel against external attack and for all their economic needs. The population was relatively small compared with those who had been abandoned to the wastelands. All the food had to be grown hydroponically inside the vast structure, for nothing useful could live beyond its artificial borders.

 The price for the continued existence of the community was strict economic control of all resources, including the population. There was a quota for children, and this was allocated without the possibility of appeal. For those not on the register, sterilisation was mandatory. The old idea of reproductive rights to satisfy individual needs was no longer possible and had passed out of social consciousness. Dora had been granted one child, but he had recently migrated to Citadel five, on the American continent, a much larger unit that provided more opportunities for the young than the European Citadels. There was even talk of reclaiming land for agriculture in the more favourable areas, but there were no such plans for Europe, much of which had suffered nuclear pollution from the rush for energy solutions. Solar power had quickly become useless as the cloud cover became permanent, turning the planet into another Venus.

The number of travellers was not widely publicised, and he guessed it varied each year according to the managed birth and death rates. Age was a factor, because no one under forty was included in the lottery, unless they requested it. He thought it might be around one thousand, out of a population of roughly a million housed inside the pyramid. There were a few scientific and military outposts dotted through the forests but these would have numbered no more than a few tens of thousands.

The popular story, learned in childhood, was that travellers would be sent to colonise the new planet that had entered the solar system just over a hundred years ago. It had been named Valhalla, presumably because the Earth's population was entering the last days of the great civilisation that had been destroyed by the unstoppable progress of climate change. Images from satellites had shown a completely black planet about the size of Mercury that barely reflected any sunlight.

 He had been about twelve years old when news of the planet's approach through the Oort cloud had filtered through from the dying satellites. The energy wars were in full swing, including tactical nuclear exchanges in the Middle East. Miraculously, all out war had been avoided, but the vast displacement of populations had led to the breakdown of all but the pockets of civilisation that had erected the energy pyramids. It had been a time of great uncertainty, as to whether they could be completed and secured before the starving hordes succumbed to the hostile environment outside. The sieges had lasted for many years, in dying waves of hopeless struggle between the powerless masses of outsiders and the military organisation of the pyramid dwellers. Eventually, nothing remained outside but the ugly tangle of vegetation that had adapted to the ruined atmosphere and the burning temperatures beneath the roiling clouds.

The chosen ones were not allowed to congregate in large numbers, but there had been a celebration of about twenty of the travellers in his sector of the Citadel. They had been given special presents for their families and granted permission to move freely about the pyramid for a few weeks, the nearest thing to a holiday that was on offer in the work orientated community. There had been some muted discussion of what it all meant, and even attempts at jocularity, but the end result was a cloud of worry and depression once the party was over. He had been given a bottle of tranquillisers, but threw them away, deciding it would be cowardly to use them.

A short week later he was lining up at the vast dome, beneath the sinister bulk of the transporter that would take them on 'holiday' to Valhalla. Saying goodbye to Dora was the worst part, but half his mind was focussed on his own fate in the darkness of space, where the black planet had stabilised some fifty million miles beyond Jupiter. As a scientist, he could not remain unexcited about actually passing near Jupiter, a sight that only the travellers got to see. This, he supposed, was what much of the fuss was about. They were going into a heavenly region that might even hold out the prospect of a better life: nobody knew but the travellers who had gone before them on the robot guided vessel that would return to Earth after they had disembarked for Valhalla.

After a long ride on the motorised pavement, they had been herded into elevators by uniformed monitors, and whisked upwards into the belly of the Leviathan at frightening speed. Instructed by small drones they were guided into their seats in pods of twenty. Soft music played all the while and quite luxurious refreshments were freely available. The interior was otherwise Spartan, but well furnished with monitors showing the world outside the transporter. Some of the travellers conversed with each other, while others maintained a gloomy silence: Aaron, too, remained subdued.

There was a knot in his stomach as the robot voices issued endless instructions about the rigours of take-off and the pleasant flight thereafter. He knew a bit about the electromagnetic pulse engines, because they worked on similar principles to the plasma bottles he had designed for the artificial suns that powered the pyramids. Enormous repulsive power would build up and hurl the giant ship into the clouds at around nine Gs. Some of the passengers would not survive such strains, but that hardly seemed to matter. Maybe he would be one of the lucky one to go early.

The take-off was more terrifying than he had imagined, but the interior magnetic fields were used to cushion the enormous G forces. In less that five minutes, they were above the cloud cover and exposed to the light of the Sun, at least via the wrap around monitor that gave the impression that they were completely exposed to the airless space outside. The nearest drone explained that he could turn off the monitor if he wished, and ride in the muted darkness of the pod, but the view was too exciting to waste cowering in fear. The experience of the traveller was indeed a privilege and a wonder beyond belief, after years of confinement inside the utilitarian environment of the pyramid. He thought of Dora weeping below, but there was nothing he could do but participate in the experience until the end.

The journey was a long one; even with the ion drive speed of some two million kilometres an hour Aaron knew it would take about twenty-five days to reach Jupiter and several days after that to Valhalla. The majesty of the stars was incredible, but the human mind soon tires of even the most magnificent experiences. Staring at stars, however bright, soon palls, especially when faced with the dangers of the unknown. The in-flight entertainment was extensive, ranging from a wealth of programs about astronomy, pure science and the arts to pornography. Needless to say Aaron avoided the latter as quite inappropriate to the seriousness of the voyage. Then there was sleep, aided by a selection of psychotropic drugs that promised thrilling experiences that had never been available in the Citadel. Morality, it seemed, was an earthbound constraint, which did not apply to the travellers, who were being invited to indulge in all manner of hedonism.

He reflected a little on the huge cost of the enterprise and its utter uselessness to the community trapped below. Perhaps it was the kind of hope that religionists had indulged in before the collapse of the old world. As a scientist, he had little sympathy with delusions of longevity, let alone immortality. His satisfaction had come from serving the community and the aesthetic delights of scientific discovery. Still, there seemed no reason now not to enjoy what delights were on offer on this unique journey into the unknown. He could see from their expressions that many of his fellow travellers were partaking of the multitude of delights on offer, and he gradually succumbed to the sybaritic life-style that seemed to be expected of him.

The days passed quickly, once he had become accustomed to the cycle of drugged sleep and the intensely pleasurable experiences available through a combination of electronic stimulation and drugs. When the finally reached Jupiter, the giant planet loomed with awe inspiring power in the monitors, rivalling anything he had experienced before. It remained in view for several days as they flew past the ever-changing panorama of the biggest weather system in the Solar system. The four great moons provided some further distractions until the great planet shrank in size as they moved swiftly to the far side. He had seen many astronomical images before but never with such intensity, and it was with a sense of foreboding that he realised his journey was nearly over.

The deceleration could be felt as a continual force as they approached Valhalla. His first view of the planet was in some ways more frightening than Jupiter, perhaps because they were much closer as the great ship sought out a stable orbit. The planet appeared smooth and featureless, and very, very black. The robots began to twitter information about what was to happen next. He was amazed to hear that they would be actually landing on the planet, not in the transporter but in the pods, which would be detached from the mother ship. He could hardly believe it, but what else did he expect.

As they moved closer to the planet, mysterious geometrical features began to appear on the dark surface, which could not possibly have been natural rock formations. The detail increased until the landscape seemed to be some kind of complex artefact, which reminded him of the old printed circuit boards that had once been used in computers. The robots began issuing instructions in earnest now, warning about the discomforts that might be experienced as the fifty or so pods detached from the mother ship. With little time to prepare, he felt the sudden surge as the pod was ejected and saw in the still active monitor that he was among a regular formation of glistening pods showering down towards the blackness of the surface.

The fall towards the surface was terrifying but exhilarating, and his hopes soared when the monitors began to display what appeared to be vast cities below the falling craft. It was all there, the advanced society that men had always dreamed about, perfect in every detail, the glistening buildings that must contain countless millions of settlers from the once fertile Earth. He understood the secrecy now. It would have been very unsettling for the majority on Earth to know of this far flung Utopia, the finest achievement of a race almost doomed to extinction by its rapacious way of life.

The pods slowed in unison now, as they approached a vast landing ground upon which many vehicles moved about their daily business. Aaron realised that the surface was deliberately black to maximise the absorption of radiation from the distant sun. It was all too amazing to take in, and he gasped in wonder at the scale of the achievement by the tiny, vulnerable creature that was man. He felt a twinge of sadness that Dora could not be here to share this moment of surprise and triumph.

The long-range cameras on the mother ship recorded the succession of flashes as the pods struck the barren surface of the planet, proof that another mission had been successfully accomplished. The Retirement Commission registers would be updated when the data reached Earth and any pensions due to relatives credited to their accounts. The dream of a new Earth and a new life was kept alive, and unrest quelled for the time being. The public relations division would celebrate with a modest party to mark the success of another mission to the dark planet.

*******

Monday, December 7, 2009

Restless Dust

















To speak or remain silent is a choice
that we can make, but not to stay the mind
behind the restless words; thought, spoken or
set down, is a more stringent discipline.
To ignore or be deaf to unwelcome
news is a choice that suits our purpose best,
when mind will not be still at our command.

The impulses of mind are never still,
but flash and scintillate unseen behind
the dull screen of habitual response.
In sleep, the music continues to play,
albeit in quiet whispers, rustling through
old leaves, fallen memories of past lives
real or imagined, rolling stones in streams

Layer on layer of semblances and signs
are sifted and arranged into the past,
discarded or held ready for fresh use
when light and sound stream in through tiny gates
with the endless question, is this a new
configuration or is it déjà vu,
or maybe unreliable memory?

The wind that is not restless is no wind
at all, but an improbable average
of air's gasses in equilibrium,
its motion independent of all sound
until mouths and ears make their messages
heard above the atmosphere's unceasing roar,
adding meaning where there was none before.

How calm the seas would be without the winds
to stir the surface into waves and spume,
like the mind endlessly disturbed by sense
to respond with motions in its defence
against real or imagined enemies,
or seek out ways to preserve the idea
that the cacophony it knows is real.

Deep beneath the earth, massive changes ebb
and flow, fissures form and mountains slowly
grow, unnoticed until the sudden strain
tears earth, sea and sky into a new Hell
for the tiny creatures scurrying below:
and in the brain, the subterranean
forces slumber, until they burst out too.

The Sun, so calm from where we stand, is the
paradigm of violent motion, restless
in its fearsome grandeur, implacable
in its burning majesty, so that we,
insignificant children of the stars
seem just like ephemeral motes of dust
rising and falling in a fading beam.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kaleidoscope






















Beauty in the viewer's eye, deceiving
by intent, turning chaos to order
by a slight twist or turning of the wrist,
endless snowflakes permute from coloured stars,
small beads or snippets of shiny paper:
sudden shifts of delight held frozen for
a magical moment, before a drastic
change befalls the prismatic world of kalos,

Light, conspiring with glass and geometry,
creates a fascinating world of joy,
a seeming order imposed on mere dross:
endless play in a tiny tube or box
that contains the infinity that we
desire to inhabit and control with
the easy graces and careless gestures
of a god at play in the happy fields
of hope and endless possibility.

A musical instrument for the eye,
the jerky hurdy-gurdy of patterns
eventually palls, as the childish
visions migrate to that complexity
of living forms that cunningly obscure
the awful truth of the inanimate
and arid geometry of our being.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Warfighter





















Dog faced and dead eyed the warfighters sit
behind their winking terminals, guiding
the gyre of the gold clad satellites,
aligning and repositioning their eyes,
and their ever open ears to the ground,
listening to the coded babel streaming
from a billion mobile phones, and to the
signals from the hunting predator drones.

Medalled and beribboned officers
from WestPoint orient toward the East,
guarding the homeland's vultures gathered for
their never ending feast, pointing the spear
dripping with poisoned intelligence, honed
and sharpened by daily propaganda,
at the long imagined beast that shambles
in the shadows of their patriotic hearts.

The green-eyed girl pulls the flimsy cloth across
the crying baby's eyes to hide its strange
deformity, cursed by Allah and the
deadly chemicals that swim within her womb.
She does not know about the socialites
whose glittering charity affairs fund
both the bag of grain spilled at her feet
and the rain of death a joystick click away.

The bearded taliban warrior squints
into the dusty haze at the tiny dot,
and spits, his brain a maze of daily prayers
and faint hopes for the rain that will nourish
the poppies that will eventually become
the people's bread, after the crop of western
junkies bloom like fungi in the bin lined
alleys of the enemy's decaying streets.

The dust blows in the children's eyes stirred up
by the churning wheels and tracks of tanks
and Humvees, drawing lines across the sand,
soon to be can-opened by an IED
or blown apart by a well-aimed RPG.
Neither warrior nor girl will live to see
the foreign blood upon their soil, because
the slit mouthed sergeant guides his missile true.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Angel's Smile





















I have seen an angel smile at our world
of poor delusion, at our confusion,
over simple things, which to an angel
are easy as a smile would be to us.

I have seen the pinkness of its features
and the ruby of its lips as they smiled
upon our simplicity, exposing
the white tips of angel's teeth between

those lips that woman can never have kissed,
passionately or even in devotion:
androgynous and without desire for
another creature to complete its being.

So intelligent, this automaton,
whose wings seem atrophied or hidden from
human view, but suddenly spring open
in a blaze of light, as its eyes close in

contemplation of worlds beyond our sight.
What rapture is upon those fine features,
so unlike the inconstant face of man
who rages at his fate or weeps for joy.

Emotionless, the angel folds its wings
according to the most advanced theorems
of origami, which lie beyond the ken
of mere men or those great creatures kneeling,

bowed down in prayer before the throne of God,
whose host resembles an infinite field
of wheat that will nourish nothing and no
one other than The One who reaps their praise.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Three Cheers for Santa





















Santa Claus sent an elf round to my door
disguised, it seemed, as a religious boor:
he had two fairies with him for support,
pretending to be children, so I thought.

The elf beamed, waved a pamphlet in my face,
and said, "I'm here to save human race".
my wife whispered from behind the door,
"It's the Mormons, they've been round here before".

"No, no, leave this to me," I said with glee,
"I just want to hear what he has to say,"
(always ready for a bit of cruel sport)
 "I'll send him packing soon, I know his sort."

"Santa has a message of glad tidings,"
holding up a book with Christmas bindings,
the elf said confidently, with a smile,
"I hope to read it to you in a while."

"Right, and Yggdrasil was the Christmas tree,
decked out in pretty Northern Lights, you see,"
I said sarcastically, hoping for
a short cut to his tales of Christmas lore.

"Oh no," the elf replied, "Richard Dawkins
is quite wrong. Santa really does drive in
a sleigh, the North lights are the landing strip
for his hyper-dimensional reindeer-ship."

"I thought Kris Kringle was of German mien,
but your message is from an alien?"
"Yes, there has been a change of policy,
about who is bad and who acts nicely".

"This criterion no longer applies
now human hearts  are filled with hate and lies,
besides, the North Pole has begun to sink
and we have lost our summer skating rink."

"Global warming I suppose" I replied.
"exactly, loss of faith in Christmastide
has undermined the etheric stasis
of the underworld that's Santa's basis."

"We're surely doomed, unless you take my hand
and chant: 'We want Santa'. You understand.
Carbon dioxide is not the problem here,
it's simply a shortage of Christmas cheer."

The youngest girl fairy began to cry,
"Please help," she said "if you would only try
and be nice, for once, and listen to our plea,
we could go home and have our Christmas tea."

"What exactly am I supposed to do,
save Santa and stop global warming too?"
"Never mind," the elf said crossly, "we can't stay,
I can see you don't mean to help, anyway."

With this remark he gathered up his things,
and flew off down the drive on stumpy wings,
My wife said, "You were rude again today,
I hope there's no damage from that hyper-sleigh."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Speak Bones

















The gleaming bones lie restless in the sea,
picked clean by the hagfish that squirms and sucks
the bloated bag of flesh that still remains
of some lost sailor or would-be immigrant.

The desk light glistens on the worried brow
of the lately deposed man of power
and glints on lenses over rheumy eyes
that flit upon the endless, scheming words.

Heavy jowls ruminate on the meaning,
the mean mouth turned down in a scowl of scorn:
the well-worn phrases burnt into his brain
must be repeated over and again.

The shifty words lie restless in his mind,
disturbed  by the waves of controversy,
rearranging themselves from false to true
by the logic of hatred and despair.

The heavy shoulders heave and shrug away
fearful thoughts as the sweaty hands lay down
a sheaf of papers and some grey reports
that document the plans of covert men.

The desert bones lie piled beneath the sand
in random heaps, some hastily interred
in grieving sheets or boxes roughly hewn,
scrounged from the heaps of military waste.

Too many bones to be accounted for
by Infidels or sparrow counting sheep,
their accusing mines of calcium lie
unrecorded but heavy on his sleep.

The capacious earth receives its tribute
without demur, its countless minions
recycle and reuse war's refuse heaps,
layering its geology with death.

The gold gleams dully on the guilty hand,
as it reaches into the bottom drawer
for the medication that will preserve
a life, honoured only by a hapless wife.

His muscles and his bones strain with the load
as rising from his seat, the ageing toad
leans heavily on the bone handled stick
that keeps him on his feet since he fell sick.

The guns gleam silent in the cabinet,
a well-oiled reminder of his status
and the feathery piles of avian meat
that yearly rained down from the autumn skies.

Slim pickings compared with the hail of flesh
and bones brought down by presidential pens
that signed the secret horde of documents,
sealed for a hundred years in private dens.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Old Then Young






















First young then old, there's no escape from that
you say, but from the vantage point of age,
when actors are about to leave the stage
without applause, a life that's fallen flat
cries out for yet another curtain call
before some fatal pratfall ends it all.

Do you remember that first Christmas tree?
when mother held her darling up to see
the candles and the tinsel finery,
in days before the blitz when they felt free
to laugh at tyrants strutting through the streets,
and we not old enough for boiled sweets.

Running on the lawn, imperfect cartwheels,
forward rolls, twirling round fast and falling
down, the world is spinning your head reeling
from vertigo, remember how that feels?
Probably not, but such past memories
await their place in your untold stories.

When puberty set in and warned the host
the seething body not the mind is king,
chemical bonding was the only thing
that satisfied the growing child the most.
This natural imperative was blocked
by grimy hypocrites who said, "we're shocked".

Our young, ambitious thoughts and acts prevailed:
exactly what direction they should take
was unclear, except to those on the make
whose parents, without pity, never failed
to force upon their kind the proper mould
that made their children prematurely old.

For the rest, unguided by convention,
wandering off the well worn tracks, among
woods and thorny thickets of right and wrong,
the quest began, to challenge and question
every impediment to the rampant growth
of those glad branches of our gorgeous youth.

When joy was safely circumscribed, marriage
proved how right the circular argument
was, that repressed joy and youth's prurient
but delightful urges that fend off age:
all that energy must be used for work
by bovine labourer or sheepish clerk.

The remedy for scarcity was work
but the urgent need for that ceaseless toil
was rarely questioned as we tilled the soil
or balanced those ledgers we'd rather shirk.
Work minus sleep left little time for aught
but careless merriment or futile thought.

Under grim flags of red or striped with blue
the state guides and enforces all it can
the fate of the average man or woman
being most determined by what others do.
When the time came and progeny popped out
It was all over bar that painful shout.

The bitter conjunction of nature's plan,
and the machinations of devious minds,
bent on exploiting toilers of all kinds,
mapped out the concourse of the race we ran.
In middle age prosperity peeped out,
but soon retreated at the first redoubt.

The cycle of generation came round,
and what we received so ungratefully
we spitefully passed to our progeny,
who, we must hope,  became less tightly bound
to the economic merry-go-round
that we rode lightly to our dying ground.

Old then young was, perhaps, our final hope,
invented by ageing psychiatrists
who secretly hankered for loving trysts
with pubescent patients who could not cope
with life's bewildering and cruel schemes
that, like ours, end as unsatisfied dreams.

With all the hunting and gathering done,
tending the flickering fires of life's lost loves
is slight recompense for the fateful moves
that led to losing games we should have won. 
Now our instruments of love lie broken
hope remains that wisdom's worm has woken.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pole of Scorn





















Know you how to sing a tune?
Know you how to carve a rune?
Know you how to cast a spell?
Aye, I know that very well.

Then go into the mountains wild,
And take a virgin undefiled,
Carve her name upon a rock,
And descry the entrails of a cock.

If critics say your song’s unfit,
Drain their speeches of all wit,
Shrink their clothes so they don’t fit
And drown them in the people’s spit.

Make all their words seem dyslexic,
Churn their stomachs with dyspeptic,
Fill their drinking cups with arsenic,
And let their wives be anorexic.

Know you how to read a line?
Know you how to prick with tine?
Know you how dye with blood?
Aye, I know that well and good.

Then go into the hazel wood
And cut yourself a wand that’s good,
Lead poor dobbin from the field
And lay his head upon your shield.

If raiders come and steal your corn,
Carve magic runes upon your horn,
Blow hard a blast for Odin’s ear
To fill their thieving hearts with fear.

Call up the winds to tear their sails,
And pincers cruel to rip their nails,
Close all ears to their woeful wails,
And clap them into stinking jails.

Know you how to tie a knot?
Know you how to pray a lot?
Know you how to blot a life?
Aye, I have my trusty knife.

Then go into their drinking halls,
Splash their blood upon the walls,
Cut the hand that lifts the cup
And drive them out with headstrong tup.

If kings and princes rape your wives,
Blast their skin with deadly hives,
Drive them mad with nettle stings,
And close up tight their fleshy rings.

Set their sacred flags on fire,
Fill their friends with hateful ire,
Drive them out from every shire,
And make their library books expire.

Now you know the secret skald,
Avoid offending poets bald,
Lest heirs to Egil’s Pole of Scorn
Make you wish you’d ne’er been born.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shiny Things





















It is the shiny things that fascinate
the childish eye and guide the questing hands
to satisfy what the brain calls its mind,
but after all those soft, round things have been
withdrawn, and their comforts replaced by pain,
the search begins of that other domain
that yields and resists our fondest desires.

The pin that pricks, the spark that burns, the eye
that gleams bright, but must not be poked or picked,
and a thousand more forbidden delights
that tease and beguile: the mysterious smile
behind the jewelled mask of cruel life;
the splinter and the knife, the broken glass,
the bruises and abrasions on soft flesh.

Before the metals were released by fire,
hands scuttled in the deep to claw the eye
from the musty oyster's shell, and delving
in stygian caves found specks of silver
or crystals of amethyst: beckoning
sirens to the desiring eye, seeking
its delight in the tiny and the bright.

Small accumulations of shells and beads,
feathers and nicely coloured seeds became
property and wealth, that foundation stone
of society that marks out the strong
from the weak and the angry from the meek.
Adorned in the glittering and the rare,
mankind's chieftains showed off their shiny ware.

Sharing the women out was hard enough
but how to deal with all that other stuff,
and the envious glances of the rivals
goaded by their ambitious sons and wives?
A few judicious gifts to the strongest,
or marriages to their fairest daughters
restored equity and balanced power.

Greed and envy gave way to kings and laws,
to divide by force of arms what was theirs
and yours, thus government evolved from strife
and conflict over ownerships of things,
including slaves and wives who did the work,
setting the owners free to contemplate
and enjoy all the finer things of life.

Luxury and uxorious delight
soon supplemented hunting animals
and men, but conspicuous consumption
attracted savage hordes, eager for their
share of booty, so warfare and great wealth
joined forces to defend their shiny piles
of gold and ornamented concubines.

Civilisations rose and fell, leaving
behind the detritus of their shining
past: piles of gold and trinkets to their gods
sank into the mud, overgrown by trees
or washed away by rivers and the flood:
their patient resurrection, piece by piece,
reveals lives of the wealthy steeped in blood.

Palaces and cathedrals rose and fell,
crammed full with all the finest works of art,
statuary, tapestries and murals
delight the eye with paintings, furniture
and jewels by Tiffany and Faberge:
soon enough dispersed by war and plunder
as the poor rise up and cannons thunder.

With peace, the houses of the bourgeoisie
were stuffed with every good and bric-a-brac
that took the fancy of idle housewives:
pearls for girls and fob-watches for the men,
pianos and gramophones with gold needles,
fancy mirrors, and silver tableware
jostled with candlesticks and gaudy clocks.

The engines of production, once let loose,
deluged the markets of the world with goods,
demanding ceaseless toil from lesser souls
and enslaving the wealthy with more goals
to possess the shiniest and the best
of everything avarice could digest.

Now cathedrals arise in every town,
as fast as fields are cleared and trees cut down:
glittering walls of glass contain boutiques
with the latest electronic trinkets,
winking with knowing eyes they speak in tongues
of endless plenty for all with credit
not yet exhausted by the quickening race.

Outside the stars are dimmed by human lights;
glittering towers reaching to greater heights,
dwarf the humbler joys of the simpler life:
a frosty morning with a million webs
adorned with dew, or snowflakes softly falling
on the hyacinth, just peeping through the
last vestiges of dark untrammelled earth.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bottom Drawer





















The old man stoops, working in his garden,
his past lies living in the bottom drawer:
the old things stored there reveal, long hidden,
the dangers of the life he lived before.

An old squeezebox, hexagonal and brown,
still plays a tune, as once it did in France,
where brash young soldiery relieved a town
of wines and virgins at the local dance.

With gloved hands he squeezes smoke from the cone:
a few stragglers cling to the waxy comb,
while others circle angrily and drone,
about the slatted hive that is their home.

At playtime, the children come out of school:
they do not trespass on the well mown lawn,
'stay on the strip of flagstones' is a rule
the lame teacher, his daughter, has laid down.

Meanwhile, in the drawer, a shoulder belt
and silver flute suggest an earlier tale,
perhaps in South Africa on the Veldt,
than the Fields of Flanders or Paschendale.

In the garden, he ties up runner beans,
puffing on a well chewed pipe, he decides
to spray the roses next with nicotine
against aphids before he goes inside.

He leans closer to the battery wireless,
pencil and sports page ready in his hand:
his horse finishes but without success,
he stumps out to the music of the band.

Old magazines, beneath some well-worn sheets,
the Pink'un and La Vie Parisienne,
hint at past wartime fun in foreign streets:
precious memories of a younger man.

The bell clangs loudly and the children scream:
the old man returns to his lost Eden
away from the throng he resumes his dream
of prizes for the best local garden.

At the back of the drawer dully gleams
a battered Jew's harp, its crude iron bow
once twanged by the light of falling star-shell beams
in bloody trenches under winter snow.

After a cup of tea, some bread and braun,
equipped with trilby hat and walking stick,
the gardener heads to toc-H in the town,
where a brown ale or two will do the trick.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pack of Lies






















0 The Fool
Do not despise me for what I lack,
the World's burden lies heavy on my back:
hare's foot in my pack and wooden spoon to
ward off the Devil on my journey to
the Moon. But, maybe I'll just return
to the Inn and sup another measure
of ale and wait my turn with greasy Joan.
Anyway, I think the fatted calf would
rather I delay the inevitable
reconciliation with the Father.

I The Magician
As first mountebank I appear as one,
ministering in the marketplace
to both the incredulous and the sly.
My legerdemain is swift and just:
bright coins soon disappear from dupes who stand
before my table; alderman or wife,
mesmerised by cup and pea beneath my hand.
Just a tap of my wand is all it takes
to take it all away, with one quick cut
of my accomplice's hidden knife.

II The High Priestess
If she has a face, it is never seen
in that impenetrable shadow where
above her gleam a circlet of stars, this
Queen of Heaven, seated with the book
of mysteries upon her knees, sees all
but reveals nothing to the common eye:
encompassing and bounding all things real
or imaginary, enthroned between
the pillars of chance and necessity,
one naked foot resting on the Moon.

III The Empress
Sired from the seeds of time and foaming sea,
she rules by love and sweet profligacy,
her pleasures she bestows in abundance
to allay the cruel pains of growth and life,
her gifts transcending the ennui
of dumb being and dull continuance.
Purple and yellow her flowers bloom, signs
of Earth's perpetual union with the sky.
Nothing lives but for her desiring breath
nor dies forever in Love's land of death.

IV  The Emperor
But from love's chaos order comes, bearing
the crown and sceptre of rightful command,
decreed by form and number physis speaks
in geometric and unyielding tongues.
How can rule be lawful without a ruler?
lawyers argue by their blinkered rules,
so man reasons that love and freedom
must give allegiance to an Emperor,
aquiline and sanctified by holy sword,
to guide or bind the hands of wayward fools.

V  The Hierophant
Temporal power does not rule alone where
the triple crown bows down before the hoar
and sacred mystery of winter's pall,
and Persephone's return from dark
Hades thrall weaves its way towards the light.
In caverns and catacombs militant
monks revere the child bound deep within
the circling zodiac and rocky tomb,
who springs  with tauromachian power
to sacrifice the beast of winter's night.

VI  The Lover
Now here I stand undecided, attired
in multicoloured coat, caught between love,
sacred and profane, and forced to choose
righteous duty or give in to beauty's
wayward boy. Overhead his deadly aim
will soon dispel those doubts and illusions
that I am free to choose between the
apple and the sacred tree. Why blame me
if I indulge my fancy, and taste joy
with She-Wolf or Chloe on life's stony way.

VII The Chariot
In princely robes, I grasp the reins of force
to draw the Sun along its stately course.
Wayward the dark horse but steadfast the white,
my path will be strewn with roses from dawn
to dusk or with my blood and broken husk.
In pursuit of power and glory I must
cast fear aside and trample opposition
underfoot in my celestial rush to write
my name in history; a meteoric
rise or falling star my destiny.

VIII Justice
Weighing which hearts are heavy and which light,
she sits sword in hand and contemplates
the Damocletian fate of gods and men.
Implacable and inevitable
are the laws that gape open the doors to Hell,
or to freedom and happiness as well.
Each seed of action contains within itself
the root and flower of its consequence.
Without choice, nature knows no sin or flaw:
expect no mercy where this rule is law.

IX  The Hermit
Still looking for the way, I'm aged now,
my lamp guttering as the oil runs low.
But with each faltering step my mind grows clear,
as I steer midway between pain and joy.
I hold in abeyance all choices or
decisions which disturb the karmic track.
Like the planets, I wander down strange paths
preordained by the footsteps behind me,
glancing back at my steps in time I see,
the doleful traces of my destiny.

X  The Wheel of Fortune
Lashed to the wheel we rise or fall by chance,
powerless to exercise the will or
win Fortune's favour or her baleful glance.
The paradox of will and destiny
resolved only in its contrate motion
or at the still centre of its endless
spin, where the wise take refuge from the world.
The will is but the motion of desire,
which drives the cycles of this awful gyre,
from which not even death provides relief.

XI  Force
When the lion of the will is overcome,
the green tincture of the golden sun is
seen. The body becomes inviolate
and strong, exuding power and sweetness from
each pore. The hero returns undefeated
to the city, still bound by his promise
to overcome the cycle of the sun.
Jealous of his sister's love, false Phoebus
schemes to take back the hero's godly power.
Love's arrow strikes him bathing in the sea.

XII  The hanged man
Powerless I hang inverted by
one foot from a tree, as others have done
before me and will again hereafter.
What does it mean? With eighteen signs I see
the world tree clearly with one eye closed, the
loving, fighting, healing and mastery
to be gained from thought and memory.
Now my sacrifice is over, I will
fly with ravens and see with eagle's eye,
riding through the branches of Yggdrasil.

XIII Death
Death's farmer does not sow but only reaps,
on high or low estate he levies tithes,
no one escapes the scythe of Thanatos.
All those who prosper now will lose their lives,
for beggars or kings he shows no regard
but mows them down and heaps them by the yard.
Harrowed land lies barren 'neath winter's gloom,
waiting the return of Eros' fertile doom;
love's joyful rains descending once again
herald the groaning passage of life's wain.

XIV  Temperance
Harsh absolutes are tempered in the fires
of reason, quenched by dialectic springs,
life and death opposition is folded
in the mercy of an angel's wings.
The eye of Anubis brings the desert flood,
 brief relief from Dog Days burning heat,
and greens the delta with the hope of food
and life immortal for the pious kings.
Pouring balm to heal all suffering physis,
Maria Prophetess reborn as Isis,

XV  The Devil
Typhon, last son of Gaia and ruler
of all material things, hermaphrodite
with scaly wings, creator of gender
and all disagreements among humankind,
also called Baphomet by Templar knights.
Beneath the sigil of the pentagram,
seated upon the sphere and cubic throne,
'solve Coagula' your baleful epigram.
None can free themselves from your awful chains
without abandoning all joys and pains.

XVI  The Tower of Destruction
The fall of Jericho or Babylon
is well known, but any false monument
to gods or men may be overthrown,
but mostly this refers to the hubris
of kings or men of power whose discontent
hurls down both high and low into the dust,
when nations fall or economies go bust.
All forms, manmade or not, are subject to
the sudden shock of change which can unglue
the mind or the fabric of world we know.

XVII The Star
Hope, that last antidote remained within
the box when evils filled the world with sin.
Ishta's star rises early and sets late:
descending, she passes through that dark gate
to gather abandoned souls like flowers
seeking the light in their darkest hours.
She, Queen of Heaven and fertility,
effulgent daughter of the Sun and Moon.
waters the Earth with tears of compassion,
promising suffering will be over soon.

XVIII  The Moon
In the city, the dogs begin to bark
at the strange light that banishes the dark.
The Moon attracts, with mysterious force,
all the waters of the Earth and makes them
dance in rhythmic harmony, and rejoice
in a symphony of abundant life.
Strange monsters come floating up from the deep,
and out of mind hidden illusions creep
into the light of new-born consciousness
to weep upon the shores of moonlit lakes.

XIX  The Sun
The Sun shines equally on every home
with radiance and magnanimity.
Dawn's twin horsemen too shone down equally
in many skies before they founded Rome.
Staring at the Sun in the midday hour
we see the yods flow from the sacred horn.
The Sun is fount of energy and life,
parching the grass or ripening the corn,
but in Ragnorak the wolves will devour
Sol and Mani before Sunna is reborn.

XX  The Judgment
"Judge not lest ye be judged" is not written
in the Angel's book: the strident horn calls
forth the dead to be saved or smitten with
another thousand ills in Satan's halls,
where Gabriel and St George combine
to winnow wheat from the chaff to ensure
that each soul in Heaven is clean and pure.
When humanity has been so refined,
and there is no more need for flesh or mind
will the goldsmith in the sky be so unkind?

XXI  The World
The substantial orb and the world soul stand
united in the Anima Mundi,
completing the quest of each errant soul,
within a transcendent divinity.
Once hidden in matter but now set free,
the creative principle of the three,
foretold by Maria Prophetisa
is revealed by the magic of the light,
instilled in air, earth fire and water
by that first great imperious command.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vitreous Humour



















Gathering in hollows the waters lie
reflecting what's above but not below,
supine eyes staring at the azure sky,
unsighted spurning what they cannot know:
though stray beams filter through the gloomy deep
and keep unconscious denizens from sleep.

Moving on the waters, the winds disturb
the sun's bright paintings with crude striations
and those airy vibrations that perturb
the symmetry of light's fine creations:
below, mother's shells gleam with pearly pride,
where vain procrustean thoughts are wont to hide.

Sheltering from the wind beneath the trees,
a pair of youthful eyes take their delight
in talk between the water and the breeze,
revealed by the play of flickering light
reflected on his features as he kneels
to touch the one who neither knows nor feels.

Fleeting ripples, water's brief memory
of wind, soon dissipate upon the shore,
but nothing catches light's celerity
or persists of reflections made before:
only a perceiving mind can capture
both the cooling breeze or vision's rapture.

At first there was polished obsidian
then beaten copper or burnished bronze for
ladies to admire their complexion,
or for Martial men dressing up for war.
Mercury and Saturn laid under glass,
helped vanity and weary days to pass.

On the Island of Murano a boon
was invented in aid of vanity,
Mercury, not yet wedded to the Moon,
ruled alone, but  spread his insanity,
until Bohemian silver paved the way,
leaving Venetian craft to yesterday.  

Once the secret was loosed upon the world,
mirrors abounded in the stately halls,
with prancing ladies, hair bewigged and curled,
dancing in glass canyons with mirrored walls:
a hundred candles, spawning hundreds more,
breathed smoke and showered wax upon the floor.

By day Apollo's golden arrows fly
but in the night Selene's silver dearth
paints pale moonscapes beneath the sparkling sky,
where starlings fly above the dreaming Earth.
Young moonstruck virgins rise with restless heads
for naked views in mirrors by their beds.

At midnight, peering in the scrying bowl
may yield apparitions or none at all,
or spell disaster to a damned soul,
doomed to wander hopeless in Hades' Hall:
but broken mirrors only mean seven years
bad luck for those with superstitious fears.

The image in the looking glass I see
contains another I that is untrue:
the mystery of the mirror is not me,
but spatial confusion between the two:
we do not see the messengers of light,
but their messages only after flight.

In the mirror I see another me,
twins fathered by the looking glass are we,
divided by a twisted parity.
Narcissus admires his divinity
and leans forward to give himself a kiss
but not close enough for that spectral bliss.

In the Hall of Mirrors at the fairground,
the twisted forms of friends or family
cause merriment and laughter to resound
from the shining walls, but no enmity
to anyone or even wounded pride,
but relief at being taken for a ride.

The friendly glass confirms identity:
what we appear to be not who we are,
as whole beings of possibility
and dynamic selves who become aware
of others too, caught in imperfect bliss
or webs of pain, when we reflect on this.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nothing Comes from Nothing














Nothing took it into its empty head
to speak its piece at last and quickly said,
"Big Bang", but there was no one there to hear
because Nothing had neither brain nor ear.

But nevertheless it got very hot
under the collar, created light, not
before time but just in time to make way
for enough space for what it had to say.

The other story is that Everything,
Nothing's elder brother, continued to sing
his interminable song in the dark.
'til bored gravity struck that fatal spark,

filling the new laid egg with blazing suns
and that noxious gas that everyone shuns
when flatulent theories burst and release
foetid confusions that disturb their peace.

Then sleeping consciousness that nowhere dwells,
except within our brains, those wobbly shells,
woke to discover that the world was real,
because there was a lot of pain to feel.

Eventually, the wheelchair man spoke too,
and put a spoke in the hullabaloo
about the origins of time and space
not showing us its original face.

Now we all wait with baited breath until
the Large Hadron Collider can infill
all the important theoretical gaps
left by God and those other clever chaps.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Fisherman of Thera

The naked fisherman stood by the wall,
a bunch of freshly landed mackerel
clutched in each hand, his biceps straining to
maintain a natural and easy posture.

"Why does he want my picture on his walls,
with these fish an' all? You'd think he'd rather
have his fancy women there, with their white
breasts nestling like doves in the trees."





















The painter did not reply but added
more earthy pigment to the wet plaster.
"The great dolphins you did over the door,
I can understand that, but mackerel?"

The painter looked up crossly, "Keep quiet,
and keep your arms up or we'll never be done.
The Lord wants a fisherman and you're it.
There are ladies too but not for your eyes."

"Why are you painting my body so red?
I'm not that much darker than you are."
"You ask too many questions, fisherman;
it's true, we both toil too much in the sun."

"While our masters lie inside these cool walls,
laughing and sporting with their womenfolk.
Ah, those women!" The fisherman sighed,
"I haven't caught one of them yet, have you?"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Imago















Lucifer, rising from the mists of dawn,
clings on behind Aurora's binding ties:
the fading crescent of the moon looks down
on damp fields where the snaking river lies.
The newborn sun soon wakes the dragonflies
and the frothing nymphs who jump and spit
upon the buttercups and meadowsweet.

The swallows quit their muddy homes beneath
the eaves of house and barn, breakfasting
on dancing swarms, taken on the wing: high
above the heath  they swing on to pastures
new where the day will host life's frantic play,
that bloody corybantic dance of May
that ends in death for all their merry prey.

At rivers edge the drooping willows sway:
beneath their roots the red-striped stickleback
performs his dance of love to lure away
his bride to be, who never wants to play.
Penitent cows endure horse fly attacks
and lash their tails across their weeping backs,
useless travail as lifeblood seeps away.

From sandy holes along the river's banks
the martins take the air in serried ranks,
and join the swallows scribbling on the clouds,
black surds in Roman numerals describe
the fleeting shrouds that mark the time and place
of the million small funerals it takes
to slake the metabolic thirst of birds.

The footless swift emits its piercing scream,
joining the killing crowd above the stream
where, in the rippling waters, endless stores
of naiads swim, nymphs cling to waving reeds,
some changing costumes for the final act
of love, or sowing seeds along the shores,
before dying, seduced by nature's pact.

Elsewhere, in the desert air, barn swallows
dive and soar over bare Euphrates' banks
oblivious to their brother predator
who drones in circles round abandoned tanks,
where they sometimes nest in rusty hollows,
threatened only by the curious child
intent on seeing nature in the wild.

In the meander of a sandy dune
foot prints of a child at play are memorised
in mud, between the bulrush and the blood
flowing from the mangled bodies, hit by
missiles launched from the whining drone above
the desert sands, guided by foreign hands,
that strike down carelessly each stinging fly.

Gaia, that unprincipled virago,
has stamped the traces  of her imago
 on the greatest and the least: man or fly
must follow the imperative to kill
and die; meanwhile in the reddening sky
effulgent Hesperus in retrograde
burns as the evening light begins to fade.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scattering



















Sage scimitars shake in the canopy
beneath the turning Magellanic clouds,
aromatic lungs exhaling fixed air
as the rootless stare at the scenery
of serried arms raised against restless skies.

Counterpoise to diurnal energy,
leaves play night music in the waving shrouds,
nocturnes composed by zephyrs with a flair
for breathing through the comose greenery
an ancient air of life and earthy sighs.

In autumn winds the leafy panoply
advances and retreats in waving crowds,
a motley crew dressed for a winter fair
stands united, a leafy plenary
against the ravages of stormy skies.

The gardener wakes to find that entropy
has redecorated the lawn: his proud
work, curbing nature with much daily care,
clothed  with an arbitrary finery
appreciated only by the wise.

With rake he bends to mend the symmetry,
and, with an aching back, complains out loud
when scattering breezes bring disrepair,
which rude nature's careless adultery
will not amend no matter how he cries.

October 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Beggar in Belgravia





















Brown girl in Belgravia,
strolling down the crowded street,
your skirt is shorter than
the shiny boots upon your feet.
You seem so very fashionable,
your face so very sweet,
why have you distracted me
from my frenzied cherchez la femme?

It's not you I was looking for,
in this beknighted borough,
I was seeking a milliner,
so meticulous and thorough,
who says she makes hats for the Queen.
I wonder if you've seen her here,
along Kings Road or in between
Rotten Row and Sloane Square.

I mean, I don't expect you have,
but I'll follow you anyway,
close behind your tapping feet
and gaily swinging derriere.
I like your face, so strange and rare,
like a model in a fashion fair,
but would it be indiscrete
to ask you if you really are.

Walking here from Kensington,
I was accosted by a beggar man,
brandishing a safety razor
and a dirty shaving can.
I listened to his tale of woe
and gave him a few shillings.
He smiled at me in gratitude
and showed me all his fillings.

But all the while my head was filled
with last night's banging down the hall;
the pounding of the headboard
in the bedroom through the wall,
where the milliner had donned her cap
to entertain her lover,
or some other lucky chap
she had working under cover.

I called upon the Devil then,
and offered him my soul
if he'd punish that faithless girl
with fire and burning coal,
or better yet the unknown man
whose horrid body she caressed.
spurning the one whose ear was pressed
against her bedroom wall.

But now I'm strolling through Hyde Park,
beside a southern beauty rare,
with raven hair and liquid eyes,
two black cherries sweet and dark,
in a face of caramel and cream,
a feast to match the lovely dream
of swelling breasts and soft brown thighs,
that bold action could soon realise.

In her tiny serviced flat,
I get to see the rest of her,
a generous field of lean and fat,
laid down from adipose to that
pair of soft delights, and soon
a luscious coffee cream éclair,
freely offered up at noon,
at Eaton Square near Chelsea Town.

Sleeping, her eyes still seem to see,
a milky meniscus beneath each lid,
keeping a witch's watchful eye on me,
the restless lover by her side.
I wonder whether to stay or flee
this bond of sudden sorcery,
as from her narrow bed I slide,
and return to where I reside.

At home, waking from a nightmare,
I lie sweating in my lonely bed,
trying to grasp the bright images
running through my burning head.
No brown girl, beggar or milliner
filled my dreams that night,
but angels dark and sinister
guarding a city full of fright.

Strange adventures I had there,
like Dante and his companion,
past Charon into a cave I ran,
and thence into a dingy canyon
peopled by shades in sulphurous air,
filled with weeping and despair.
It was the stuff of B-grade dramas
frightful enough to soak my hair
and the front of my pyjamas.

Facetiousness aside, the dream
was awe-inspiring. I saw outside
a dismal figure robed in white,
dragging a death cart through
a city bathed in purple light.
And in the distance, there were beams
of golden light, where squatted
brazen angels of enormous height.

Then over a barren heath I flew,
across rolling hills and stony ground,
until by force was halted near
a trilithon with that profound
inscription, and familiar sound,
'abandon hope ye who enter here'.
There I felt a nameless fear
and trembling coming from the ground.

Stopped short of being propelled between
the lintels of that dreadful gate,
I need not fear the obvious fate,
it seemed, until I heard a sound,
like some great train, Hell bound,
bearing down on me - too late
I tried to jump aside but down
a hollow plunged into the ground.

Clinging to the heather on the slope,
three times I evaded great engines
trying to press me down into the pit.
The first green, but indeterminate,
which changed into a yellow
juggernaut, and then a final blow,
a whirling cloud of purple mass
tore my fingers from the scraggy grass.

But still I clung on desperately,
not falling to the depths below,
clawing back up the hill to safety,
how I managed I do not know.
Turning, I saw a tiny figure
rising from the gloomy pit,
it seemed rather insignificant,
until I got a better view of it.

Kundalini flowed up my spine,
flooding my mind with ecstasy
as the satanic figure rose
to greet me where I lay prone.
Terrible in its majesty,
it overcame its deadly weight,
and a massive plinth of stone
securely chained around its feet.

Three figures glowed before my eyes,
blinded I could not see their features,
but heard their theriomorphic sighs,
and felt the numinous magnetic bliss
streaming from these creatures,
let loose upon the hills of Dis,
as the triple demon I beheld
raised a golden disc above its head.

A star shell of fear and pain
burst through my body and my brain.
In terror I was lifted high,
bent double, I was forced to pray
levitating before this god,
now knowing what he held aloft,
my soul, surety for that act
sworn yesterday, my jealous pact.

And now I'm scuttling down the street,
accosting everyone I meet.
"Have you seen my brown girl anywhere?"
Some take pity on my plight,
but others cannot bear the sight
of a beggar man in Eaton Square,
with burning eyes and grimy face
holding out a battered shaving can.

Tony Thomas 2005

Monday, October 5, 2009

Coffee House

















The waitress brought his mocha on a tray,
he thanked her but he would have liked to say,
"you're very pretty", but this would not do
for a poor patent clerk, and married too.
He should have said," I will be famous soon",
but might as well have spoken to the moon.

The marbled patterns in the tabletops,
beneath the cake crumbs and the coffee slops
then revealed to him aether's janus face:
ten origins defined as time and place,
tensely reciting their mysterious rhyme
in ambiguous seas of space and time.

The curving saddle of the violin,
clasped to the softness of the woman's chin,
blended the interplay of cosmic fire
with high vibrations in the singing wire,
suffused Bach's ringing music in his blood
with thoughts of love and happy womanhood.

Like a wily goddess languorously
displayed, the universe humorously
played god's waiting game with her loaded dice,
against his equations until that nice
moment, revealing energetic charms,
she let her mass fall lightly in his arms.

Tormented fires, raging without a sound,
like unabated furies swirling round,
all neatly caught before he was quite sure,
in bold equations in his office drawer.
The three-page supplement should make it plain
another Newton had been born again.

The yellow dwarf was bending light from stars
before mankind had ever noticed Mars,
but now two expeditions caught Sol out
despoiling Newton's perfect world without
a doubt, and confirming, more or less, that
space-time was bent or slightly curved, not flat.

The cream expanding in the coffee cup
spawned galaxies before he picked it up,
the dreaming eyes within the gentle face
rested lovingly on the moving space,
no Riemann geometry was on his mind
when he observed the curves of womankind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Spark





















A tiny spark, a candle flame, a fire
suggests the possibility of pain.
A burning house, a city wreathed in flames
surpasses the compass of our anguish.
An atom bomb, volcano or the Sun
Exceed human measures of agony.
A nova, the birth of a galaxy
transcends imagined torments of our gods.

A pinprick, a nasty cut, a migraine
are afflictions most of us have known.
Arthritis, broken bones, an accident
may test the limits of our tolerance.
Executions, murders, or an earthquake
breed suffering that we could never bear.
A plague, a widespread war or genocide,
are woes mocked by singular empathy.

Experience of pain, or fear of it,
finds deathly limits to our suffering;
beyond these we cannot honestly go.
The summits of possible agony
seem infinite mountains to the victim,
 but can never reach the imaginary
summum maleficium of worldly pain
posited by philosophers and priests.

As if the pain and suffering we know
were not enough, they must construct a world
of fanciful torments to disgust
and harden our soft sensibilities
to the unnecessary agonies
caused by the institutions that they serve:
this Man-God, standard-bearer of our ills,
Hell, a realm of pain for his enemies.

By what divine accountancy must we
balance our joys against the sum of pains,
or for each bit of happiness offset
a thankless life of toil and misery?
The body knows its rightful boundaries,
the self, seeking to increase its empire,
applies its tiny spark to the kindling
of others to create a reckless fire.

By hateful word and angry glance the nerves
dance hot from eye to eye and ear to ear,
until the groping hands grip throats, or pull
at knives, guns or the levers of despair.
Cool bureaucrats ensure the strong prevail,
as smoke grenades and rubber bullets hail
upon the fleeing mob, nursing new hatreds
from the stinging blows of their master's boot.

Pain, then, is the governor of desire
and so too of joy, that surplus extreme
that persists after nature's tasks are done.
No wonder then that men of power Invest
in the pain of others and constrain their joy,
all in the interests of good government.
Money, token of desire, decides who
shall suffer and who will be relieved.

Living together in society
has not increased capacity for pain
or pleasure but overfills the amphorae
with vinegar or musty wines of joy.
Ascetic or sybarite must adjust
to the accountancy of boom and bust
as the spark falls through dust and smoke to be
quenched at last in oblivion's dark sea.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Folly's Playground



















At opposing ends of life's seesaw sit
the complacent sage and careless scholar
candidates for the thorny crown of wit;
one crammed full of phlegm, the other choler,
but which is which is open for debate,
or who will prosper at the hand of fate.

Such a dialectic opposition
defines polarities of fool and sage,
but hasty judgment of one's position
still leaves the other standing on the stage,
pondering how the question should be put
if his boot were on his adversary's foot.

Impartial, standing in between the two
an invisible acrobat keeps the peace
by varying the pressure of his shoe,
a spritely dance that he can never cease;
this trinity of actors can be found,
in market place or martial killing ground.

Within the sage, a fool longs to get free
and the fool hankers after wisdom too,
the former tangled up in logic's tree,
the latter's thoughts mired by custom's glue;
one seeks his freedom chasing after facts,
the other lives a life of thoughtless acts.

Both sage and fool are bound to action's wheel,
forced to participate in Fortune's game.
The wise man wonders if the play is real,
while the fool struggles to advance his fame:
neither can be certain of success or
if wisdom lies in seeking more or less.

As the pendulum swings from side to side,
the sage devotes his time to find perfection
while the fool races down a winding slide
convinced he's going in the right direction;
one renounces joy for a final end
the other finding hope round every bend.

Anger, fear and greed are among the signs
displayed by those human beasts we call fools
but these traits were part of nature's designs
to protect and satisfy, before rules
were writ by clever kings and priestly stealth,
dividing human kind by wit and wealth.

Hatred, lust and envy, too, are despised
by seekers after truth and harmony,
who by their careful moral works revised
brash natures harsh and cruel symphony,
inclined to maximise the spread of life
despite its ravages of pain and strife.

Folly is wise judgment on the fool, but
fools think not sagacious judgment wise;
opposing wildly when the case is shut
they curse fate and shout anger to the skies.
Caught in wisdom's nets of specious laws
they damn all order and unsheathe their claws.

For each false notion the sage holds true
a hundred thousand true ones lie in store;
as many more false ones the fool holds too,
waiting ready to refute wisdom's lore.
This balance between notes of true and false
makes raucous music for the Devil's waltz.

Wisdom consists in more than doctrines tools;
the wise must assiduously enquire
into the validity of their rules.
As foolish lore falls short of fool's desire
they too must revise their kit-bag of wit
to repel wise assaults from logic's kit.

The continual question 'is this true?'
is too tiresome for the man of action,
a modus operandi for the few,
so no fool would crave this satisfaction;
but the seesaw of doctrinal debate
is too often the stage for fools to prate.

The miserly buffoon guards well his hoard,
as the sage keeps his library well stocked,
and is loath to throw old saws overboard.
The academic pantaloon is shocked,
when new ideas rain down upon his head,
taking shelter beneath old books he's read.

One hundred and seventeen kinds of fool,
listed on the manifest of Brant's ship*,
set sail upon the medieval pool
of wit, which makes this verse a tiny blip,
but that history of wise and foolish strife
stays much the same as in our daily life.

* The Ship of Fools, Sebastian Brandt, 1494