Month: November 2016

Short poems about war and the weather

As part of my spiritual practice, I write a daily poem about things that I’m mulling over, or which have touched me. They are always nine lines — except for the occasional longer poems, when I have the inspiration — with each line typically comprised of nine syllables. (This, too, can vary but typically doesn’t.)

Here’s a selection of my musings over the past week.

North and South

We should have left one another then.

You wanted to own people, although

you cannot admit that now and turn


your eyes away with a hot curse when

I bring it up. I was fine with

dirt and factories and spinning mills


and all matter of bullshit as long

as we weren’t putting people in chains.

Long years and still the argument persists.


After the coup

In the days after the coup, the sky

shone its usual hue of eggshell blue,

above streets with unaccustomed silence.


We smile thinly and make our purchases,

wondering beneath our masks: Was it you?

The banners supporting the insurgent


no longer flutter, and the powerful

seal their lips shut when we point to their theft.

And everyone wonders: Was it you, friend?



Maybe we will sleep again without

half an ear awake for the sound of boots,

the knock – curt, professional – on the door.


We cannot trust our eyes to close and then

the world assemble itself into its

usual shapes when they drift open.


The neighbor that held the door wields a knife.

Their compliments on your casserole sift –

writing on the sand, washed away by hate


Birds’ nests

When the wind and cold steal the rags

from the trees, their branches shiver

to hide their nakedness, their long limbs –


and revealed are the nests, twig-twined orbs

in every crotch and crevasse, great

and small with the remnants of eggshells


and shed feathers an shit. Winter

reveals the armature of spring,

chaos and death the seed of the song.


Notes during wartime

First remember who you were. Remember

all the things you said you wouldn’t do.

Remember who you were before you did them.


Remember the things you said when speech

winged as free and far as chimney swifts.

Remember all the facts you learned from books


and stern teachers, the ones who challenged you.

But first, remember who you were – and are.

This is of the utmost importance.


Before the storm

The skies are bluest before the storm

the day most beautiful before the turn

to darkness and winter and freezing cold.


Like a Victorian maiden with her eyes

luminous, her complexion rosy

as consumption settles wanly in –


Red skies at morning, sailor take warning:

How magnificent the cresting swell,

the glass cave as it envelopes you!

The rail grinder

The stars come down with the screen of steel -- 
galaxies thrown wide, sound and fury.
The rail grinder pares the iron road
to perfection, if you survive it --

You are melting in the forge, the kiln stoked--
You are broken and remade anew
your impieties crumbling, charring--
You are coal. You are liquid. You are struck

again and again, thirsting for oasis,
a bucket, an ocean, a pond.
When steel meets steel, even the rocks burn.
You are perfection, if you survive it --

The horses race the cursus of your heart
panting, redfaced, burning with sweat. You are
running freely now, hurtling toward the wall
the iron horse that cannot slow, oh!

Eyes cannot assemble the pieces.
The scene: Guernica. Here is your nose
stuck to a knee, a black braid, an eye,
the angles folding like a pocket map--

All the wicks are lit and the pillar
seeps through the cracks in its glass cage. Watch
the wax as it hardens, making shapes --
Your name, written by Madam Tussaud

and a gun. The night horse hurtles toward
the horizon in parallel lines
now gone to flame. Red for recession--
grinding us down, if we survive it
Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 1937. Oil on canvas. Via Wikimedia Commons

Ogham Poem: Sail, the Willow

Your long hair swinging, you sway over

the mere to peer in its murky depths,

the bees singing the song of your name

O salce, salce, salce, O —


and the branches underneath the dun

forge the faces of the dead, beloved

and gone, humming with the bees their song

O salce, salce, salce, O —


Music is the delight of the dead.

Fleshless skulls sing from under the skree

send tendrils to the waters below

O salce, salce, salce, O —


The heavy scent of your garlands mask

the compost of misplaced desires, sins

and crimes. Even maggots make their place

O salce, salce, salce, O —


Make a garland of your hair, a harp

strung of its gold that tells always truth

the muddy pond steals back from the sky

O salce, salce, salce, O —


Garland dead lovers and living seers —

The moon pulling the tide to ebb

unveiling the dead under the foam

O salce, salce, salce, O —


Nine times nine, a chorus of witches

hums with the bees and the mighty dead

under that ghost light, that lamp of time

O salce, salce, salce, O —


Let your voice rise with the time and tide,

rush like waters under the tree,

lave the unclean, unshroud the hidden

O salce, salce, salce, O —


Your long hair swinging over the hole

that mirrors the sky, you sing with the bees

“Music is the delight of the dead”

O salce, salce, salce, O —