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.
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.
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.”
Here Slaughter, son of Murder, stakes his claim.
His grunting trucks patrol around the pit,
Where cranes and shovels sort the heaps of slain,
Stacked high between the walls of bone and grit.
Here Murder broke the ground that once was green,
And stamped the pasture flat with rubble cones.
Brought out a poison better left unseen,
And left a barren ditch between the stones.
Here we shall welcome Horror, Slaughter’s heir.
She’ll fill the pit with bones scraped bare, made clean.
Sieve out the poison burnt into the air
And write in ash, “Remember what has been.”
In flowers we shall lay our memories here,
Each new guilt buried in another year.