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.”

The One Loved

A force of love feared she was incomplete,
And sought, and caught a soul in tight embrace;
Lifted her darling from his mortal feet
And laid him gently in a web of lace.

The web was torn, and brighter than the Sun
Her eyes were lit with rage and righteous pain.
She sought the forts where slavery had begun
And taught their tyrants terror — but in vain.

Her sweetheart was not taken as a slave.
He had been mortal, and he had grown old;
Had seen her love would stretch him past the grave,
And chose to face a fate that he controlled.

Upon this secret, spend no further breath.
We dare not let her think to challenge death.

To an Empty Biscuit Tin

I don’t know what suggested you to me.
You were a ship, with pennants hoisted high,
And I, a droplet drifting in the sea.
I let you lead me. Now I wonder why.

In those lost days, you did not seem remote.
“This ship,” I said, “respects the little waves —
Rolls with their motion, like a lesser boat.”
But now it seems you saw us all as slaves.

The sea, I learn, is not allowed to choose
Which way the liner steams, but in its wake
Is caught, to follow as its captain deems.
My only choice: which tyrant’s path to take.

Some ships sink, when the sea leaves them alone.
You left the sea. Your fate now is your own.

Written before I knew the outcome of the election.