Poetry

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Death is Everywhere

Death for the gazelle means

meat for the village.

Death for the man means

feed for the high grasses.

Death for the grandfather

means cries wailing deep into night,

another story ended,

and now to be remembered.

Death for the father

means a shift in the world,

tears that flow and aches that know

a new Chief will soon be named.

Death for the village

means the War has transformed

from whispered fears to

fires spitting endings,

consuming the homes and scattering the cattle

and the survivors must run

and silence their grief

and remember.

Death lives in the baked earth

parched even more than the traveller.

Death lives in the lack of life

acres barren of teeth and green.

Death hisses in the starlight

bared naked by famished cloud.

Death incises with Frost’s bite

riving spirits beaten down.

Death creeps through unknown illness

that steels through veins in the night.

Death oozes from heart-sores,

unwearied by flagging host.

Death waits in fenced camps,

feigns retreat in the medical tent.

Death gnaws on minds

and stalks the prairie of dreams.

Life lives in family

in siblings lost and found.

Life binds more fiercely than blood

and roars a familiar sound.

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You Need A Hug

Do you need a hug?

Not a child now so no, why would you comply?

A slow-motioned punch is now how you cry

Do you need a hug?

Your best friend does but you’re scared to comply

Appearing gay is more dangerous than seeing him cry

Do you need a hug?

Your son does but really you shouldn’t comply

Because if you do his upper lip won’t stiffen and he’ll cry

Do you need a hug?

Your dad does but you mustn’t comply

Because grown men don’t hug, and grown men don’t cry

Do you need a hug?

You do and she knows it and for once you may comply

Because gentleness with her is how you’ve learned to cry

Do you need a hug?

You wish to but she’s not here so how can you comply?

You need to feel a heartbeat against you, you desperately need to cry

Do you need a hug?

Yes, but liquor can comply

It burns from inside you, but it’s better than to cry

Do you need a hug?

Your mind does but your tongue doesn’t know how to comply

No one has taught you the language to cry

Do you need a hug?

Your upper lip is a ledge and feet wait to comply

Be a man one more day, or step forward and die?

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There’s an air raid going on inside me

every second I’m awake.

Bombs fall like rain around me

and there’s nowhere to escape.

The city of Self is now debris

damage irreparable this time.

Half-rubbled buildings surround me,

my city, in ruins labyrinthine.

I pick my way through the broken edges.

Murdered streets.

Dead hedges.

Along deformed paths I seek

once beautiful architecture.

Past another disfigured landmark,

searching in vain for a cure.

Alone, alone, again, I embark.

Yet circles pass with draining venom

and cowering I stagger on,

in fading hope of a home,

a sanctuary from killing exertion.

The siren is shrill and piercing

and I can’t get any rest.

This blackness is an Infinity

but I swear

I’m trying my best.

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With Wings Out Wide

With wings out wide and tail held strong you soar

‘Bove grey clouds to valleys of golden light;

Each heartbeat pumps with a yearning for more,

Blood sings through limbs with unbridled delight.

The world is yours: freedom through your lungs flows

Like rushing river, like gusting gale howls

Such defiance and certainty she knows,

Unbound and unchained by the weight of fouls.

Wings beating fast, freefalling for the joy

Or sky-dance through crisp air: no need for rest

Nor fear; muscles won’t threaten to destroy.

Up here she’s free, she can achieve her best.

   Yet caged by her body it’s clear to see

   The life her mind shows her is not to be.

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Chocolate Madeira

‘Don’t open the kitchen doors!’

on the morning before the occasion.

An invisible cloud,

a bright nutty brown,

steals through the keyholes

and squeezes over the door-guarded threshold,

spiralling in elegant wafts

up the stairs and through the rooms.

The scent is

home

and comfort,

favoured desserts shared

with family and friends,

savoured during Birthday Week

or inhaled in guesting abandon.

Whisks and whiskers licked,

icing sampled by tiny tongues:

the Chief Checkers declare it fit for service,

then ask to lick the bowl.

Nana’s chocolate cake

expands through the house

as it is in oven.

Exam stress evaporates

as nostrils flare and

saliva gathers

attentive, alert, awaiting

the first still-warm forkful,

or the finger-stolen flick

of potentially poisonous icing

(just doing a Quality Control Test

it’s safe, you may continue).

The kettle boils,

The fork sails

through delicate, dense

yet perfectly moist sponge

with the exact expected ounces

of Coolach’s own Cadbury’s chocolate.

Lips part in anticipating smiles.

The fork docks only briefly

to unload its

scrumptious cargo.

One more slice before bed?

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Stilling Storm

My mind is a beach

and you are the sea.

Your waves startle upon me,

Crash and ebb.

Violent yet gentle as your touch.

There has been a drought

of thought and reminiscence.

Your waves shock upon me,

Crash and ebb.

Soaking sand I swore was sodden.

Mainland lures me shoreward,

away from your endless home.

Your waves caress and hold me,

crash and ebb.

Lulling me into sacred memory.

A beach cannot be moved.

Your surf is stayed by strands.

Your waves harboured within me,

crash and ebb.

Safely kept, softly wept, swells ripple with tears.

My heart is the beach

and you are the sea.

Your waves roll around me,

hush and mend.

Your comfort unforgotten, you harbour me.

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Starlit Sister

Slender fingers grip the pen as it glides

like a figure skater over a freshly frozen pond.

The scar on the bracing finger gleams in the slyly peeping night:

a sitting room forgotten at three AM becomes the oasis in Sahara

where some world or war has you wield your sword-pen in starlight.

What remembered moment has snared your thoughts so?

Your distracted glance catches mine and you smile as though in trouble.

With cheeky eyes you lie and say you’ll be done in five more minutes.

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The Companion

In the quiet hours it slithering returns,

susurrates sweetly

sighs with erroneous love,

listing the dangers it foresees

adamant

that an awkward act

or misplaced word

will open inside a trapping trail

I do not wish to track.

Whispers on the breeze

turn from the buzzings of bees

to a sibilating swarm of incising vespulae

trapped inside my chest-hive

swelling to a squall,

a malicious mutated murmuration,

direction unpredictable,

power unsurvivable

that convulses into a storm

a tenacious twister, consuming

mind and heart

like paper caravans

writhing in fear

of ifs and mights,

of coulds and haves,

of shoulds and won’ts.

It screams and roars

and rends itself spent.

Remains reveal the false calm

of a sea whose sharks have swum deeper

away from the light

further to the night

awaiting their next call to frenzy.

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Flower Girl

You talk with her about things

I’m too young to care about.

So I run ahead and hide

by the gate pier of an unknown neighbour.

I crouch down and think myself a flower,

small and growing and secret.

I hear you coming, chatting away,

and have to hold back a snicker.

I’m going to be the best surprise.

Just as you round the corner I spring

up like a daisy

rising into full bloom

with arms out wide

and smile beaming,

my golden hair a crown of petals,

my uniform a vibrant stalk.

And for a moment

I am tall

and grown

and beautiful like a tree.

Your surprise is like the sun.

Your gasp a true delight,

your smile radiant and all mine

And you pick me.

Every time.

So I can run ahead.

And grow again.

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Anniversary

Is this me? Is this me?

I’m not anxious now

not scared

Are you sure? Shoulders are tight

chest is sore

must be some little bit more

left lurking

the point-one percent

meticulously multiplied

discrete dynasties

subito stunt

coordinated coup

a million tiny kisses from swarming fireflies

pógadh beaga, pógadh dhíl mo chroí

ar mo chroí

stinging me

what happened to their mass graves?

how can these live so long, so savagely?

dying dynasty

yeah, I wish that’d be

such fight for pinprick firelight

choose their targets just right

hence my plight

At least I found some insecticide

in my mind

wove it from thought

strung it from the crumbled pillar

with the porous golden core

análú tarrthála

well, cad a tharla?

the point-one percent have

cultivated immunity

oh yes, there they’ll be

I’ll see this through though, you hear me?

This is not me.

This is me.

Puffin

After “Finding My Bearings” by Martha Kapos

Bound for the sea

Guided by Moon’s glitter

Snared by false light

Doomed in grounded plight

All that glitters is not gold

Swayed by silver lining’s hold

how are you to see,

what is real, what is made by me?

Strange hands find you

fling you skyward

You escape our world, return to whirling winds

Follow a new Moon’s glow

fly high away from sorrow.

Found again in shaded hollow

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