WAR OR PEACE

War breaks out
in the land of the golden calf
or in the columns
of the Daily Telegraph.

Peace is found
in cloister or hearth
in intervals of war
or the exhausted aftermath.

Whatever
declarations of war
or articles of peace
are signed,
they flow
from the labyrinthine meandering
of the human mind.

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“AMERICA, AMERICA”, DONALD TRUMP!

We raised our hats to you, Mr Lincoln.
We believed every word that you said.
And when life spilled into darkness
in a night of theatre,
we believed, even though you were dead.

From the decay that was Europe, we sent you our sons
to escape from a thousand-year prison called home;
from money and serfdom and warfare and guns;
from Ireland and Germany, Russia and Rome.

We believed, Mr Lincoln. We knew. We could wait.

From the slave-fields of Africa, we heard all men are equal
and America, like God, would apply it that way.
And having applied it, would insist on the sequel;
that all men were free in this African day.

From Asia, the bent backs of our human machines
learned of machines that would give them their rest;
learned they could stand straight and what freedom means;
and, holding heads high, put it all to the test.

And what did we get from all the bright promise?
And what did we learn when we gave you our vote?
From a heap of dead redskins to a pile of dead commies,
you could write the Lord’s Prayer on a used five-buck note.

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DIAMOND MOUNTAIN

Wind blows.
Rattles an invocation
two thousand years old
from bronze temple bells.

Brushes a susurrus
from ten thousand oak leaves.
Draws from their branches
the moaning
of two hundred year old wood,
the dry sound
of a long-forgotten oboe.

Causes a seventy year old man
on a slatted bench
to tug the scarf across his chest.

Wind drops,
slips back
into eternal silence
of measured decay.
Wind undefiled
speaking in many voices.

Diamond Mountain is
one hour high,
one hour wide,
one hour deep.
Every hundred years
a small bird comes
and rubs its beak.
When the whole mountain
is quite worn away,
the first second of Eternity
has passed. 

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ETERNITY

Looking with dispassion,
with equanimity,
doesn’t it shine brighter than a thousand suns?
The broken wing,
the severed finger,
the uncompleted life;
‘the smyler with the knife’,
the smell of fear,
spirochaetes, viruses and germs
and the ever-chewing sepulchral worms?

And don’t we see a thousand times and more
that what we build and try to hold in place
disintegrates, vanishes without trace?
And what we hoard up
and try to store
provides a breeding ground for rats?

And this, which is the Past,
is also Evermore?

What we cannot preserve here
when we have felt the betrayal of the breath
we save for heaven,
taking our joys and pains
across the no-man’s land of death
and there, in finer, subtler, intellectual realms
plant our standards.

And still the Eternal, empty wind
blows them down.

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BLONDIN

Every man is Blondin.
Every lifetime a rope,
finer than a spider’s thread,
sharper than a sword,
stretched between birth and death
(breath and breath)
across Niagara.

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MEA CULPA

Self-justification seeks to edit
so that things don’t seem quite the same.
The aim, of course, is to claim the credit
(and leave someone else to take the blame).

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ALL THAT GLITTERS…

Don’t place too much reliance
on the label on the tin.
Open it and taste what lurks within.

(Even the salesman’s lengthy explanation
has more to do with sales than information).

And when it wags its tail
and barks that it’s a cat,
well, I wouldn’t place too much confidence in that.

Even if it brings its tongue in
on a golden platter,
the gold is in the plate,
the meaning…. another matter.

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