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.
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.
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?
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?”
The Art is complex. Any single spell
Demands its own well-chosen stones and herbs.
Preparing these, as wizards once knew well,
Was boredom fit to strain the strongest nerves.
Great spells were wrought, to end this patient pain.
Now would-be wizards only need a bag.
You reach within, and ask in language plain
For gem or feather, leaf, or lump of slag.
No-one need wonder whence these tokens come.
But I was curious. I learned a charm
To find where any object’s path begun.
I swear that I was not intending harm!
The source I found: six sorted heaps in Hell.
Those dread gates crack again with every spell.
The spell component pouch has an interesting history in D&D.
Here’s to the days before the world was broken,
When foes came one by one, and none too strong!
Then Danger reigned, but Doom had not yet woken;
Then hope survived for peaceful lives and long.
Those loyal friends — they gave beyond all duty!
Here’s to the nights ’round campfire and table,
When pranks were played for laughter full and free!
Those songs segued to pleasant dreams and peaceful,
And in dawn’s clashing chorus, we’d agree.
Those lovers’ trysts — the last we knew of beauty!
Here’s to that hero’s era halcyon,
Before we fell too far, nor faced defeat.
Before the death, the torture, and temptation;
Before becoming what we tried to beat.
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.
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.
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.