Abraham Lincoln,
may his name be blessed,
has risen from his place of rest
fearing that America is sinking
beneath the weight of Third World Debt
and the moral obligation
to prevent the precious sacrificial oil
falling into the hands of the Ungodly.

“Fellow Americans!
Hear the Word of the Lord!
Eleven score and seventeen years ago,
our fathers brought forth
upon this continent a new nation:
conceived in liberty, and dedicated
to the proposition
that all men are created equal.

Do not allow the world
to interfere with your electoral campaigns
when you come to elect a new President.

But be fair!

Do not allow yourselves
to interfere with their electoral campaigns
when they come to elect their new Leaders
in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Respect cultural differences.

If you would have yours respected,
then you must show respect.

Lead by example.
They should respect your casting of votes
and your ballot box.

You must respect their casting of bombs.

Of the people
by the people
for the people!

Ours not to reason why!
Ours but to Live
(and let Die).”


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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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Pain is in proportion to livingness.
The more alive you are,
the more it hurts
to live.
This is normal.

The young hurt most
but mend quickest.
New flesh heals
where old flesh withers.
Young mind feels
pain piercing and deep;
often so deep that of itself it heals;
a child that cries itself to sleep,
cries and forgets in eternal singing.
This too is normal.

Until clinging
enters the heart,
laying up the treasure
of its tears
to be disinterred in later years,
repented at unwanted leisure.
And this is normal.

The prophet said:
“I will give you life more abundant.”
His shadow added:
“And more abundant pain to go with it.”
Quite normal.

Amidst so much normality
the pain is what shines through,
making a mere formality
of what you think you want to do.

Grasping out and feeling pain.

Letting go and letting heal again.
See where the yellow banner is unfurled:
“All is for the Norm
in this most normal of all possible worlds.”


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my shoe
and my chin
on the gate,
I thought I knew
how animals must suffer.

in the concrete slaughterhouse,
their sweat
their fear
soaks me
and the stench of their faeces
chokes me
and stifles my lungs.

doesn’t wet.
cannot forget;
(sinks in deeper
than the brain.)

Empty handed I come
and lo!
the blood is on my hands.
Why do I seek high and low
for something else to strangle?



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Chinese New Year
always comes in February.

This is the last
of the twelve year cycle;
the Year of the Pig.

Processions, dragon dances,
fireworks and smoke,
cymbals and drums.

The Chinese close their shops,
do not sweep their houses
and pay respect
to the Ancestors.
They put a spray
of cream and purple orchids
on car radiators.
They put peacock-eye feathers
in the Spirit House of Chao Ti.

This year
a thin woman
hung up her baby
by its left ankle.
She let it bob and scream
as an entertainment.

A silver coloured bowl
collected offerings.
The string broke.
Someone caught the baby.

Muslims exploded bombs,
killed an army major,
burned Buddhist schools.

Someone stole our telephone wire.
(Copper is making a hundred baht a kilo.)

(from BAMBOO LEAVES Poetry in Thailand)


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Even in all your fine regalia,
hint of blue and buzzing wing
all the trappings of your kind,
you are far from being a substantial thing,
and all your efforts end in failure.
All entomic paraphernalia,
proboscis, thorax, abdomen, wings that fly,
six legs, antennae, multi-faceted eye,
are merely dust imprinted with your mind.

And so you flit from fruit to faeces
to satisfy an endless lust,
disintegrate into component pieces
and so revert to where you started, dust.

But even without dust to model
and round a dusty world
you fly, quite formless, from your silent hell
to where the nerve ends of the brain are curled.

You are thought
your body but its shadow;
not from the maggot were you brought,
but from the glow
and from the fire
of still unquenchable desire.

The human here
in all his pride,
gives you sanctuary inside,
eventually emerging to appear
a bold facsimile of you
with buzzing wing and hint of blue.


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The boy broke
the old man’s window.
He said he felt fine
and still loved the old man.

The old man broke the boy’s window.
He wanted to show him the view,
and how the lawn led on to the trees
and, high above, the empyrean blue.

The boy was allergic to draughts
and the glass had kept them out,
and though he knew that there was a view
he had no need to know what about.


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