Monday, 30 April 2018

A Man in Dachau


A Man in Dachau.

Above the iron gate, 
in letters of iron,
the motto 
“Work will set you free.”
Inside the iron gates 
slavery, nakedness,
sadism, despair, death,
a rule beyond brutality,
a regime beyond callousness,
darkness thick, impenetrable, absolute.

How could light exist in such darkness?
Yet I read of a man who surrendered 
his pitiful morsels of bread to those 
he thought were suffering more.
"I am no mere plaything of circumstance.
They can take my life.
What they cannot take is my freedom 
to choose my own way." 

“Choice,” I joyously shouted, 
“not circumstance, 
determines what we are 
and who we will be.
Look! Even in Dachau a man 
chose compassion over self.”

A friend said:
"Noble indeed is such a one.
Heroes make these choices.
The exception though is not the rule.
Choice is circumscribed by circumstance
and eliminated for most by horror of place."

Another then spoke:
"Oppression's boot can find the weight
To crush all choice away.
Was that man's compassion an act of choice?
I rather think it a gift of grace."

The man from Dachau then appeared.
"The parade", he said, "is unendingly long
of those who shuffle by-
children starving or abused,
women beaten, mutilated, acid-scarred,
the tortured, guiltless and cruelly oppressed,
the dispossessed, the mind-manacled,
the legions of the sick and poor.
I merely do what I must do.
Those who can, should follow." 

“Such thinking is divine,” 
is the voice I think is mine. 
“That one had the gift of grace.
He still gives the gift of hope.
Grant me then the grace to follow.”

First published in Verse-Virtual

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Lost, Without Compass or Star.


Lost, Without Compass or Star.

For my mother,
Brenda Lynette Creighton,
1919-2014

I put my hand to the tiller,
turn this creaking vessel 
into a darkly rumbling surge
of grief, bewilderment and betrayal,
finding in love and forgiveness
wind sufficient to fill my little sail 
and lift me up and over the tumult
into water deep and gentle
and sorrowfully compassionate.

Clouds dissipate. The stars are out.
The surge flows smoothly.
My arm, steady on the tiller,
holds the course firm and true.
I know extreme age stole
all her best qualities,
her vision, judgment, empathy
and most especially, honesty.
Without vigour to guide her way,
she drifted vulnerably across the dark.

There are no quiet, protected waters,
only sailing on a sea 
that alternately shimmers or looms.
One day, inevitably, the gift 
of an overflowing surge will come.
Best if it arrives before capacity 
to raise your own sail is lost. 
She was always gentle and kind.
What cast her loose, set her drifting 
on a last dark voyage
that belied all her previous voyaging?

First published at Anti-Heroin Chic.








Sunday, 1 April 2018

Visitation.

Visitation.
(For Diana)

Before dawn I felt a touch,
heard a soft voice whisper “Come,”
a pause and then that voice again,
“Your race you have now run.”

I shook my head, withdrew my hand,
I weakly whispered “No.
How can I leave this woman
Sitting quietly by the window?

“O Mr Death I cannot come!
Look on this vignette—
how morning’s growing light
softly frames her silhouette.

“She and I have things to do,
loving not yet completed.”
and I hear my own voice vow
“I will not by you be defeated.

“When you some other time return
I may merely follow,
say goodbye to this
quintessence of joy and sorrow.

But her soft touch makes
your cold grip fall away.”
Then weakly turning towards the light
I embrace again the coming day.

First published at Blue Heron Review, Winter Edition, 2018

The Diamond Litter of Stars.

In this tinsel world of botox faces,
perfect orthodontal smiles
and all those desperate attempts
to keep youthful looks

I’m thinking about
the headlong stampede of youth 
and the crumbling that comes with age

and I’m also thinking that for beauty
sunset’s red, orange and purple blaze 
equals sunrise’s swathe of pastel glow

and how, after the end of day,
is the velvet quilt of night
and the diamond litter of stars.

First published at One Sentence Poems.

The Merchant”s Pearl.


    

The Merchant’s Pearl.

Gentlemen, our last item is truly special.
I unveil magnificence. 
Note the perfect plumpness of the breasts,
the silken smoothness of the thighs,
the fineness of the skin,
the thickness of the hair,
the untarnished youth.
You have been blessed with money.
Your power has brought you rare privilege.
Many dream of such honour.
Now this can be yours to buy, to possess, to enjoy.
There are no obligations attached.
Keep it for as long as you like.
Do with it as you will.
I see your eyes feasting.
Let your imaginations feast too.
All will envy you, consider you blessed.
Now, gentlemen, who will start?
Who makes the first bid?

This satire was first published in The Ekphrastic Review.

Gifts.

Gifts.

I give to you these trifling things,
light from life, love and age,
diverse experiences distilled
and patterned upon the page.

Are they only wisps of breath?
Distillations of the chest?
Essence of love, joy, hope or pain
dripping forth before I rest?

Are they lighter than thistledown?
Little more than seeming?
Are they the heart’s desire to search
for beauty and for meaning?

Some build tall towers or bridges.
My desire is just to sing,
so take these gifts I offer.
Are they merely trifling things?

First published in April Verse Virtual. 

Searching for Gold.

Searching for Gold.

I dip my pen into the stream
to see what will unfold,
swirl and sluice upon the page
seeking for that glimpse of gold.

I have seen the shining glory
that some old miners found,
drawn from darkly rippling water
or gouged from littered ground.

Now I dip into the mystery
flowing by the riverside,
seeking in the moving stream
for where the gold resides

and eagerly bending to the task,
desire just this small part:
that the treasure which I seek sings
of truth, beauty and the heart.

First published in April Verse Virtual.