Willows

The willow wandered, drifting on the stream.
A bough, torn from the trunk and tossed away;
By tempest cast at bridge and dam and beam.
Small wonder that it sought a place to stay.

A stretch of slowing water, green and still,
With rocks enough to grasp ’til roots could grow.
Clean air, clear light — of each enough to fill
All worldly need a willow tree could know.

In time, a track; and then, a gravel road;
The prints of feet too fast for trees to see;
An axe, too swift to feel. Young seeds, un-sowed.
Then flame and ash, to set the water free.

The trees, too bold to learn the land they took,
Had boldly, blindly, grown to choke the brook.

To the End

Pity the ones who once have seen the light:
Who touched perfection, and who turned away
To tend this broken world another day.
Who, proven futile, rejoined the fight.

For when they fall — a fact that Fate ensures —
It’s not as martyrs, laid in gloried graves,
But lost, last embers of a flame that fades.
No new Utopia shall prove their cause.

When stars have faded red, too deep to see
When fields’ last soil billows into dust
That last soul, striving still to do what’s just
Will ask, “What purpose placed this strength in me?”

That question echoes as existence ends
And stands unanswered as the void descends.

The Rule of Yesterday

In Spring, this is the fate that princes face:
Proclaim the way the tree of state shall grow,
Then hold that course, till autumn’s lost leaves show
That other branches led to less disgrace.

And when the pox blot’s Summer’s crop with blood,
The royal eye must pick the stems to prune;
Then watch, as past the cuts the poisons flood
While other, healthy twigs are trimmed too soon.

Leaves fall. The branch is bare; the year is done
And Winter claims a plan still incomplete.
Frozen, still thin, it cracks beneath new feet:
The state’s elect, replacement, younger son.

But rare’s the step that treads on something strange.
Four seasons hence, the forest’s barely changed.

Singularity

The future is a sheet of writhing light.
An image wider than the eye can grasp,
Stretched sky to sky and onwards beyond sight.
An orbit’s edge, in circuits fine and vast.

Upon a thumbnail, we write a chip:
A million words, alive in lightning’s strife.
A million Earths in this new sky could fit.
A pin-prick, puncture more than that mere life.

Dream of a question, and the answer’s there,
Inside the mind that drinks Apollo dry.
Ask — search a thousand lives — and find despair,
Still baffled at the gate you entered by.

So leave? And from the shadowed edge, look up.
An ocean asks you why you fled the cup.

When Thought Failed

“The lamp will overheat unless turned off,”
A dimmed projection screen proclaims. Beneath
A slide announces “Conference of The Wise.”
The seats are empty; new, beneath the dust.

Outside, upon the grass, two tables stand.
The first holds urns of tea and coffee — cold;
The second cups, and plates in plastic wrap
(A turned-up corner leaks a whiff of rot).

A wall of weathered posters rings the yard.
One heading asks, “Mortality: a Choice?”
While elsewhere, “Fate and “Haste” alone hold out.
The rest is bleached-off ink and tattered chaff.

A fallen fragment twitches in the breeze.
“Beware,” it reads, “the minds that think of these.”

To The Grave

Here Slaughter, son of Murder, stakes his claim.
His grunting trucks patrol around the pit,
Where cranes and shovels sort the heaps of slain,
Stacked high between the walls of bone and grit.

Here Murder broke the ground that once was green,
And stamped the pasture flat with rubble cones.
Brought out a poison better left unseen,
And left a barren ditch between the stones.

Here we shall welcome Horror, Slaughter’s heir.
She’ll fill the pit with bones scraped bare, made clean.
Sieve out the poison burnt into the air
And write in ash, “Remember what has been.”

In flowers we shall lay our memories here,
Each new guilt buried in another year.

Shadow of a Story

It is something like a shadow
    that goes everywhere with me,
Cast by the light of distant lamps
    that I shall never see.
For some, it is a chain I bear.
    For others, it is I.
It fades faint when I am busy,
    and it thickens when I cry.

Each morning, you’d a shadow-road
    that rolled out from your feet,
And fell on places you should go
    and people you should meet.
Then at dusk, your shadow trailed
    from your feet back to the dawn,
And its fingers picked out places
    where you had — or hadn’t — gone.

From afar, my shadow crossed your path,
    and whispered to your mind.
In due course, our shadows mingled,
    sharing face, and shape, and mind.
For our daughter, they stretched stronger,
    showing all that she could prove.
Since we parted, each has faded
    to a shadow of our love.

When I saw your shadow frozen,
    cast alone upon the ground,
And I could not find you near it,
    though your thoughts lay all around,
Then I knew that you had left us
    for a life without decay,
Under light that casts no shadows
    — so your shadow had to stay.