Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Not everything is black and white

the fanatic in his cupboard
boxed in at every side
in the pitch black he rants
at the awfulness outside

oppressed in his confinement
blind through lack of light
only comes out to check his views
in the middle of the night

he's never know the daylight
what sustains him is his rage
the world's a multi-speckled jewel
but he prefers his cage


In every abattoir
a saviour is born

on the killing fields
babies appear

as I walked to the scaffold in the rain
I saw my soul enter an old woman
and she became young, full of life

so it is that in the torture cells
the hollow recesses
the slabbed morgues

where atrocities are landscaped
out of flesh blood and bone

the golden age of rebirth
seeds itself anew

Sometimes There's a Need

Sometimes there’s a need
Intangible but strong
To know something deeper
Than what you see around you

It comes from nowhere
Arises in a bleak heart
Asks What? Why? Who?
And no answers appear

And then of its own accord
The darkness passes
Like a black cloud that threatened rain
But the day somehow stayed dry

The sun emerges again
Intangible but strong
And you know the unspoken answers
To questions that don’t even arise.


Friday, 13 June 2008

a million market messiahs

A million market messiahs
Plague like locusts the self-help bookshelves
Fill up the lecture halls and conference rooms
Flesh-coloured Christs

Seeking to save
They drown their disciples


Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Shelley Cut 'n' Pastes No. 1

I got Shelley's collected works out of Hamilton Library and decided to take parts of single lines in his poems, essays or letters, and join them to others from different Shelley pieces, putting them in three line poems like a haiku.

Your ambiguous course
Time-destroying infiniteness
Shall bear the sins of the world

In the world’s youth
Truth’s clear well
A mourning mind

Sleep, sleep, sleep on
Render up your dead
Proud impenetrable grief

An orphan’s affection
Delight makes lovers glad
And take sweet joy

Heaven with obscene imagery
Complicity with lust and hate
He speaks too frankly

Weave the mystic measure
Shaken by the wind
Damned since our parents fell

Then the sly serpent
Given yourself no unnecessary pain
Plumed with strong desire

The breath of the moist earth
Like snow on herbless peaks
I thank you

Crimson dew
This lovely child
A rainbow’s arch

Liberty, smitten to death
Behold with sleepless eyes
Heavy with love’s sweet rain

More hideous than your loathed selves
That terrible shadow floats
Heaven’s palace gates

Buried with my brothers
Stoop to any other law
Joy to the spirit came

What may be conceived
Divine and strange
Two glittering lights

Mighty stream, dark, calm
Frozen and inconstant moon
Small at first, weak and frail

Show their subtle delights
All the oppressions under the sun
Diffused and motionless

As the ghost of Homer clings
All the failing melodies
Sound of joy and love and wonder

Men of learning science, wit
The end of all
Memorise their flight with death

Like its glory long ago
Whose echoes they are
Scatter, ashes and sparks


The Machine's Not Working

The machine’s not working
That’s all right
Even when it works it’s faulty
Isn’t that always the way?

Yet I pass through those choppy seas
Like a piece of driftwood
Bobbing, soaked and worn smooth
Still floating, with a frazzled beauty


Sonnet: Political Fireworks

Sometimes I write a poem taking single lines or phrases at random from books, usually political, spiritual or poetic, then pulling them together in ways that appeal to me, sometimes changing the words to better fit, sometimes leaving different lines to clash. I like creating in this way and I often like the results; whether it works for other readers I can't judge.

Not the market place
It degenerated into a squabble
Developed the libertarian message
Of social ecology

Wall posters went up around town
All abstract entities such as the State
Drawing on anthropology

The verdicts are imposed by private prosecutors
Promises do not carry moral weight
A very low opinion of politics
Permeates the air we breathe

Sentenced to fifteen years hard labour
Unlike the Suffragettes
They wish to eliminate all sensual pleasure


It's Not a Problem Ray

It’s not a problem Ray
That the old shops have closed
That the folk on the line say the computers are down
It’s not a problem

It’s not a problem
That the children still starve
That wars still flare up
It’s not a problem

Better by far than worrying
Is to appreciate that you’ve got everything
You ever need to be content

Just be content
Don’t worry about the normal human maelstrom

Once you are content
Then you’ll see clearly what you can and can’t do

About all the world’s problems


For Ingrid Betancourt

I think of you sometimes
Not often enough

And I feel only utter sadness

I cannot imagine your heart
Yet still I hope it beats

I cannot imagine your mind
Yet still I hope it holds together

I see your face
Desolate and worn

And only pray for the day…

I think of you free
I think of you healed
I think of you with your family again

And pray for the day

And I feel only sadness

I pray that your heart beats
I pray that your mind holds together

I hope one day to see your face
On the news
Coming down some government plane steps

Not knowing what maelstrom
Of media attention you will endure

Not knowing what struggles
You will face
Reunited with your loved ones again

Not knowing what effort you must make
And with what chances of success
To resurrect your life,
This miracle of life

So brutalised by these years
These deluded, sick captors

I pray for the day you are free
I pray that one day
You can emerge from the jungles
In your memory bank
And find a clearing
A space that is cool and fresh and normal

I do think of you sometimes
Not enough
And wish that I could hold you
And take you to your family

Hold on cherie
Please hold on


In the Bar the Bore Talked About Brecht's Poems

In the bar the bore talked about Brecht’s poems
How they were filled with socialist realism
How Marx inspired the words he wrote
And how he lauded the working man

But I remember the other Brecht
The guy who wrote what he felt
Unencumbered by political theory
And Marxist trash

He wrote of how he loved his women
In the forests near his home
How dodgy characters mucked around in his early life

He described the pain of exile
The horror of Stalin’s crushing of his friends and literary peers

But I didn’t say any of this to the bar bore
He had his fiction to attend to
Not so much a captive mind
As a lost soul, seeing hell
And thinking, this is paradise.


Gie me water

Gie me water
Cleans ma spirit
Clears ma head
Cleans my body

Everbody wants reasons
No-one wants redemption
So they fall into hell

Hell is a state of mind
The body accomplishes
By default

Built into the genes
Naked anguish
Comes in cycles
To those who don’t master
The mind


Bird in its cage

This is based on Leonard Cohen’s Bird on the Wire, using the same metre and rhyming. I did it just to see what would emerge.

Like a bird in its cage
Like a lab rat in a rage
I have tried in my way to be free
Like a poem in a book
Like a pawn threatened by a rook
I have saved all my crying for thee

If I, if I have been cruel to you
I hope that you can forgive my mistakes
If I, if I have been stupid too
You know it was never meant to harm you

Like a baby, stillborn
Like a mother whose heart is torn
I have witnessed your pain in my soul
But I swear by this song
By each moment this life is long
I will try once again to make you whole

I saw Christ hanging from his wooden cross
He said to me “I’m so sorry for your loss”
And his mother Mary, crying at his side
She cried to me “My son died for your pride”

But like this bird in its cage
Like the lab rat all in a rage
I did try in my way to be free

Like God in his hall
Like the devil at the Fall
I have tried in my way to be free

Like a butcher with his knife
Like the serial killer’s wife
I have tried in my way to be free

Like the rabbit in the light
Trying to gain control of his fright
I have tried in my way to be free

And like a man at his death
Sucking the beauty of his last breath
I did try all the time to be free