Unfallen

Here were the towers tall, their burnished domes
Brazed mirror-bright against the wild horde.
Here we learned strength. Faced fire, trial, and woes,
Wrought wonders, and the grave was our reward.

But what a grave! A temple to the few,
With golden statues to each lost, last stand.
Our legends glorious, or tales true
Inscribed on every stone eternal stand.

Still, we its wardens take today our leave.
The war has shifted. Now strategic plans,
Too grand for blooded blades, demand we grieve.
Our fort, unconquered, falls to lesser hands.

So raze the glories! Snuff the burnished glow!
From gilded rubble nightmares, now we go.

Once More, With Purpose

Once there were daisies and butterflies.
Goldfish glowed in the stream.
Now there are soldiers,
Bases and rations,
Wheat, and nothing else green.

Peace is the talk of the table.
“Peace” is the word on the signs.
Councils of protest;
A march, a petition.
A child, left home: “Stay behind!”

Whispers of horror.
“Oppressive!”
“Inhuman!”
The months become years.
Still no sign.

A letter, unopened.
“One day, when you’re older.”
Sneaking out with a torch, to know why.

Once there were roses to dream of.
Trysts on the grass, by the stream.
Now, there are letters,
Lawyers, and archives.
Now there are things to achieve.

Fanfare for a Paladin

Knight in the image of knighthood,
Sword of the peaceful and poor.
Light to the lowly,
Shield of the suffering,
Life, laid down for the law.

Hero of tales at bed-time?
Faith, given flesh in the square!
Voice of our virtues,
Check to our passions,
Champion, in our despair.

Friend to our face — to the faceless.
Ally, above and below.
Victory’s glory,
Grace of recovery,
Great, yet fated to go.

Just Verse

It seems the duty of a poet, now
To set in solemn phrases, words of weight:
Discourse on love — or oftener, on hate —
But always with a high and furrowed brow.

It seems the place for poets nowadays
Is either in the gallery, or pub:
The one, too fine for tainted mortal taste;
The other only fit for sweat and mud.

Our gift, too grave for light and lying tongues,
Too ancient for the fashions of today,
We’ll leave to more aesthetic lips and lungs:
Re-gift our hymns to souls that lift away.

Don’t think of those who fall! That sinful sound?
The fruit of labours profane, not profound.

Shadow of the Host

Upon your friends list, leave an empty line
In memory of the voices stuck on mute,
Whose cause the imp and angel both malign —
Yet neither knows — yet neither needs refute.

Once statesmen spoke, and papers spread their words
To frame, in every soul, a fixed debate.
Now headless feeds writhe into forms absurd,
To mock, appeal, cajole, and obfuscate.

Where once the papers came by ones and twos,
And all the village knew what each decreed,
The screen hides hydra-headed multitudes
Behind a name that swears to every creed

And yet is silent where it matters most.
What choice, what balance, in the screaming host?

Sir Simon’s Tale

Sir Simon was a hero with a sword,
Who gladly fought for glory, wealth and wine.
No gold, nor ruby dragon ever roared
That could defeat Sir Simon in his prime.

Von Argash was an undead lord of note,
For cruelly keeping slaves, known far too well.
Sir Simon cut his bony neck and throat,
And let his captives out of every cell.

Dame Eileen was a knight Sir Simon knew,
A monster-slayer, and his fiancée.
When next he greeted her, she ran him through.
Then met dead eyes. Then slandered night and day.

Von Argash cursed his killer, “Take my face.
Then face my foes, and suffer in my place.”

Until Morning

The late, long day is dying in the West.
The ants and eagles sleep. The bulls digest.
The message-doves seek out their cotes, well fed
And twi-lit roses bloom a deeper red.

The wood is cut. The hay is stooked and stored.
The scythe and axe have found their just reward.
Worn hands relax. Dry lips seek drink and song
And aching legs yearn for the dancing throng.

The fiddle finds a tune that cannot end,
The wine and cider flood from glass to glass,
And joy abounds in every lighted space.

The moon will reach her peak, and then descend;
The countless stars will scatter and grow sparse
And dawn rouse ruin on a night of waste.

“All That Can Be Done”

Once in ten thousand times, a life is lost
That cuts across a column of the free.
The thousandth family grieves the lethal cost.
The State regrets; a hundred friends agree.

By ten percent, the rank and rule expand
To take revenge on Luck and laughing Fate.
They amputate Misfortune’s bloodied hand,
And halt the wheel that sped to Pluto’s gate.

Now railings run beside the winding track.
The deer that gambolled learns a pace sedate.
A toddler dances on the cliff, steps back —
and firm hands snatch her from the pull of Fate.

On Fortune’s wheel, the skull spins past again.
She laughs. “One in a hundred thousand, then?”