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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Beyond the castle juts a pier of stone.
Stand at its basalt peak. Let eyes drift down:
The swirling vapours hide a gulf unknown.
To this abyss, the old king threw the crown.
Those were the days of wealth, and distant war,
But choices still were hard, and rule was pain.
The weary monarch cried at last “No more!”,
Fled duty and the throne, and joined the slain.
But now the war has reached these ancient walls.
The keep is held — by squabbling, shattered men.
Three blood-stained generals eye the royal halls.
Where father leaped, now daughter climbs again.
Above the stones, her parachute spreads wide …
The gates behind her crack; foes storm inside.
The echoes fade, and all the world is still.
The blood of dragons smoulders in the dust.
Like a stray star, a single angel’s quill
floats slowly down, gliding from gust to gust.
A thunderous sunset finally hides its glow
behind a cracked horizon. All is black.
A dry leaf rustles. Quiet chitters grow
And furtively, the noise of night comes back.
A faint flame flares. A lantern springs to life.
Dew glistens on cold hands and empty eyes.
Light plays on shields and faces raw with strife;
What names and goals they had, this field denies.
The light is snuffed. The quiet footsteps fade.
From this destruction, nothing shall be made.