Why fight?

We fight to make the best of it we can
now life retreats against advancing age;

To hold some local ground by skirmishes
and gain a modest tactical success,
a rearguard post, a feint defiant ploy,
a line to be abandoned in the longer run,
for the best, before encirclement when
faced by overwhelming odds:  the ragged,
haggard, grizzled, other’s face, reflecting
daily more clearly than I would admit
the inherent truth of our condition,
our wishful, compromised inheritance.

Why burn?

To prolong our finite struggle to survive
we burn energy that will not be replaced
to win us time we cannot buy, in which
we may adapt to changing circumstance –
Straitened means, circumscribed circumference,
scarce diluted fuel eked out on lesser torque
needs must controlled with care, calibrating
deflections to questions we would yet avoid –
For each choice made now reduces future options
as focus sharpens in a shallow depth of field.

We fight because we are; we burn because we can;
because our values place our actions above fate.



and – if they had the nerve – there is this:


When the fat lady sings

I came to cheer on men and join a congregation
venerating icons, the prodigious youthful talents
we’d exalted, practiced and arrayed to be our champions –
although some days / it seemed they did not know
what they should do, or could, to execute a simple game;

lacking evidence of leadership, either for them
or amongst them, they became a hollow army
(despite their brave display and dazzling wealth,
their subtle émigré crown prince and willing acolytes)
shuttling sideways as a reflex, passing closer to the end

of a campaign which saw them parlay opportunity
for petty debased triumphs and foreseeable disasters
and another season fade away in impotent frustration,
defacing our identity, cleaving hands from minds
and riving captious factions into schisms that consume
their energies in hardening each against the others

by exposing primal outbursts and staunch loyalties rooted
in a bedrock of allegiance, the common burden of our hearts,
churned by hope until we babble, gurn and squabble
through the tired days till the redeeming curtain falls
to mark a lifetime’s work – a leader’s glorious career –

that ends, as all except a chosen few will end,
in failure (if not in death / from premature pneumonia)
to be measured – even balanced – only afterwards
by our tribe of partisans and a plague of faithless
ghouls, in the perfect but so partial view of hindsight.


Premonition shivers:

Panic …. is just an inch away
its corruption spreading by contagion,
a chill within the morning mist
they (we) all must breathe, rising from the delta

When it comes:

It dilates pupils, narrows sight,
dries mouths, drains skins and blood-soaks cores
as it flushes through capillaries and flesh,
its rush feeds on mistrust, fuelling more unease
in and of each life in breaths of fear / thriving
in a fertile climate founded on their (our) past


Infecting people one by one
or sweeping regiments away
ruling of and by and for those people
who’ve found their (our) almost-abandoned
most-dearly-held and all-too-human values
wrenched and broken loose

Calving nightmares:

Of their (our) flesh somehow carved
and taken freely without drawing blood;
Of the uprooted left behind / or blamed
by those whose role it was / to care for them.

Who knows what is right or wrong?
Or which side “we” are on?