A loyal steed, a silver sword, a light to limn my brow
I left behind: betrayed, and bent, and gone.
Cast from the precipice, book, bell and gown
And rode, red-handed, with the dogs of war.
By moonless night I trod, a murderer.
Buried my sin unsaid, unsalved, ungrieved.
Broke faith: I burned its sons who still believed
And shut away the screams until they ceased.
Ahead of hosts I marched, and desolate
My hoof and boot and belly left the land.
Save scarce oases. Green stains on the sand
Where bone and basalt rise in parapets.
What horse’s tongue has touched my tainted skin?
Why do I dream of silver in my hand?
Why do I wake with sunlight on my brow?
Moon in the sky unmoving
Ice on the barren plain
Three thousand miles from hearth to hearth,
If any still remain
Roses as red as a heartbeat,
Tulips, as deep as wine
Forget-me-nots, those eyes that smiled!
But none of these are thine.
Golden, the glint of the morning,
Diamonds, our lives at last,
A moon, pearl-fished from the ocean,
For none of these I ask.
Bees about ’round the pumpkin,
Tomatoes climbing the corn,
You and I, in the garden
And parsley, left on the lawn.
How, in a hundred words, to sing their praise?
The force who face the plague from pole to pole
Who make our broken dreams a future, whole
Who free the lives the virus locked away.
How can I count their millions? Mending hands
That twice and more will take us by the arm
And teach our lungs to breathe, our blood to calm
To know, and scorn the pathogen’s commands.
How, summarise the fifteen billion acts
That finally cut the curve. The work, the woe
The hope and sacrifice behind the facts;
Between “vaccine” and “we are free to go”.
Leave history lab and leader, clown and crown.
When we are saved, it happens town by town.
Ensure your mask is tight upon your face
Before you save: a kitten up a tree,
A city’s soul. The heroes go to waste
Who bear a heart too bold; who breathe too free.
Not for your racing heart, your rushing breath
Upon the precipice; but for the weary hands,
That knit, and nurse a fire at the hearth
And bear the weight of woe when it comes home.
Nor let your care relax when once alone:
With bleach and soda clean what crossed your mouth,
Stomach a kind and cleansing sustenance
And sleep with mask and costume close at hand.
The rampage runs, unchallengéd, uncowed.
Nothing but facelessness can save us now.
A star, on the tallest tower
Raised by the citizens’ pride
In the heart, and the arm, and the shoulder
That waits against need in the sky
A lab, in the lowest of basements
From the scum of the sewers to raise
A lance, for the bubble of courage;
A lens, for the gorgonous gaze.
A night when the sky is a-thunder.
Find, midst the mud and the rain
A face, with a breath and a pulse
To carry the glass and the glaive.
Climb, when the hour is darkest
Crouch at the zenith, alone.
Leap. Hope. Lash out; and die falling
Lost in the city of stone.
Window dark; upon the night-stand
A clock shows five a.m.
The sleeper rolling over.
A snore is heard again.
A whistle at the station
The pinkish glow of dawn.
A roar of train-set engines
The six-fifteen has gone.
A yawn. A stretch. Awoken
By sun-beams bright and broad
A swear-word from a bedroom.
Seven — and not aboard!
A scramble through the smartphone
For bus and car instead
And haste for 8 o’clock tonight,
Three hundred K’s ahead.
With apologies to Henry Lawson
A shot glass, half empty.
Emerald green liquid glints, in
A stopped gold watch.
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 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.
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.