The zealots came – as always –
draped in purity, to press their claims

~ which would erase our nuances,
reduce our subtleties to slates;
as if a blank could live

~ in which the glories of creation
would shrink to conceptual art,
like angelic voices ringing
locked in a crazy head

~ on roads too thin to travel far
as life was redefined, abjured
to strip it clear of heresies

like cockroaches.

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How far we’ve come, how far

Do not forget, we were amazed when it was new.
Now it’s overlooked as everyday: faintly dismissed…
(although when we were young there was no story
unless someone crawled and wept)
Still. We all stand…
The thin and the fat. The healthy and the ill.
In healing or in stasis or decline.
With futures we may get to have: no longer
short and sharp, mostly, but chronically defined.

Dangling in the open, unreconciled –
were we but honest with ourselves –
although we co-exist, in the wake of an identity

A quest. What cause? What caught you up?
Maybe worry has no base, there is no reason for anxiety??!
Only… Why did we come this way? Was it short?
Who has come with us? Who have we left behind?
What if connections mattered less, and failure not at all
while we were still ourselves, and learning, in our rawness…
Skirting years of revolution for longer days of progress,
mercy, and dissent: creating value of our values ~
Forever next. Shared or solitary. We all stand.

EQ (weasel words)

We agreed not to look at any cracks in the construction
as if – we may have thought – that would make them go away.
They might have seemed too difficult to fix, anyway…
We liked each other in the gaps along our conversation
which is more important than your task, anyway…
So we used our tongues to draw for us
a world of the mind, like draughtsmen in our dreams…

Until an earthquake happened

Who could have planned for that, anyway?
There’s only so much that anyone can do!
Running fast to keep from falling, I stumbled anyway…
It’s not possible to win, always.
I was never very good at learning what was critical or not…
I did my best – although I know mistakes were made…
Anyway, I was entitled.  Wasn’t I?

Anti-Atlas

There is a grandeur in the landscape, lifted up and uplifting
and dry, or dried in brightening air.

It is matched by an earnestness amongst the people
who have been hardened in the ways of nature and cooperatives
but can now hold higher hopes out for their children, who are
open-faced with dark and shy and curious, serious eyes
burning through the open groves and scattered plots
and stooping limestone crags, towering
over the poverty of older lives, sheltered with their animals;

Living together in resilience in adversity, for however many
years and days of grace and gratitude god sends…

Lopsided

He had fled
as a child from the world of flood, a refugee unwelcome in his pack
who had felt afraid from the first; to find another place of faction
in which the weakest could show strength, where features concealed his fear…

His hands bled:
not minding strings of razor wire, he clambered on our fences,
he beat a bloody pulp against the bureau’s battle tank of process
but brushed aside the complex holograms besetting our enrichment

Like mirror-smoke

He would change.
Disliking men on task, on principle, he found enough belief
to claim control, to assert agency; but let his vision shrink into true faith
as roots turned in towards the cautious tearing agony of shifting shapes…

He was new:
on the right, his beard grew fierce and strong, in which he could rejoice
beneath a hooded eye, though his left profile was smooth and fair
like the face of a teen who had been young, without enjoyment.

the plain

Under a low sky, scraping the bounds of the earth
a stillness mists around us that makes the world opaque
and shuttered to the light,
in a landscape framed through glass I had neglected,
blaming eyes I’d bruised by facing the absurdities of life…
eyes blinking, shocked at what a scan now shows
of our society, of smallholders from a broken hilly country
who’d decanted on a corner of the plain, who’d encamped
and learned to specialise in arcane fields
in order to survive.

We were unencumbered – so we thought – by overweening majesty
but circumscribed within our island habits and sunk in careless sleep:
locked inside our skulls, choking down our lack of words,
we kept quiet to eschew the curse or taint of heresy,
like lambs among the emptiness of cynics standing by / detached;

We were still small people absent leadership, or faith or hope or vision,
who gave precedence to scoundrels and took nonsense for an answer,
cowed by jackals, led by donkeys, following false prophets –
their tenets brightly burnished against sense –
who pretended to console us at the funeral of logic.

Now many have decided to make the best of it they can
and seek to save themselves,
as we shake our fragments into line, of sorts,
to stumble (sheep to slaughter) off a cliff,
so ending our experience by freely choosing chains
of private personal catastrophes;
craving purpose, as we go blind into the night –
beyond our daily bread –
but not unhappy, in our imbalanced way:
lost if not mistaken.

Coal Mining, 1929

The machine man clocked in for his shift and went down
in the rattling lattice cage, swallowed whole.
He took his pride beside his fate to go down:
Down in darkness on a thin September day
below the gear at Woodhall’s Virtuewell;
Down through the narrow stooping ways of dust
chiselled deep beyond pretence and arrogance;
Down into the shafted maze of galleries
and lamps and damp and fearful gas;
Down to face his fall below a breaking prop.

Part of him resurfaced in the ambulance waggon
that shook a broken pelvis (and shoulder, ribs and legs)
along twelve dreary morphined miles towards the mercy
of the grey and gaunt infirmary… where he went down again:
Down to meet the surgeons in their antiseptic halls;
Down to months of care, preparing for the knife
which clinically killed him by infection.
Down, he left a pregnant widow with ten children
to manage in the hungry years;
Down and gone. But unforgotten in our genes.

the worm

As the teredo tunnels in, destroying for its life,
its warm and fertile purpose ending in itself;
so the worm of doubt lives in my ear and burrows through:
my intimate.

The worm has been fine-tuned by open source,
placed expertly as if by one who knew the weakness
to exploit, and how;  to feed its fill on friendship’s tap
to sow its seed in passing, that slithers into life
to parasite poor words that cannot be unheard, still less unsaid
and to distort the silence of dissent, so meaning is replaced by any sound;

Meanwhile outside, its hackles raised, the world turns upside down…

As doubt racks up its toll of days, its mire of debt
that cannot be repaid, becoming part of us,
its tinder never dried in drought or fire-burned to renew;
so iron anchors rust, transformed into dead-weights
our ballast shifts, the keel lies skew, the compass falsifies
and shock absorbers serve to amplify what anyone can hear:

Immunity has turned, there is no truth, no-one is true
once trust has been denied –
and we are all displaced, to undermine, to hollow out;
still self-obsessed.

windmill

Landmarked in a place we’d never seen
we walked along the dike, across the marsh,
heads down and wishing we could huddle
against the buffeting of the endless wind
that chased its shadows in the reeds
bending, bowing, circling in their beds
until it hustled out across the sea –
to places where our dreams had been…

Before we found a shelter in the sails
that had driven down the grinding stones –
now opened, trusted to receive
an unexpected vital moment’s strike:
a moment, even two, of clarity and warmth 
to mark a passage through life’s mud and salt;
so we can imagine how to live, into a future
different from the past.