A shadow of a man once dwelled
who in life’s dusty bookshelf
could his only solace be found.
Stories of love and legend, read he,
unlikely by far, thought he,
impervious to love’s fickle charmes, was he.
For what was love but petty selfishness,
wilfully fermented to yield a liquor
which made heads spin?
The years grew older, and as they passed
He met the very aire that gave him life,
the missing limb and part of his person.
A gleam of understanding touched his heart,
a new depth of vision and perception of things human,
a new appreciation of life’s devices and cruel moods.
For life is cruel indeed, and the lover’s brief existence
is bereft with pain and all things evil,
conspired against by universal forces.
The fair creature was out of his grasp,
sceptical of love and pernicious to his essence,
his heart’s unfulfilled desire.
Inside his very person a heartstring snapped
with every tender gaze in her direction,
and he longed for purpose.
Down the vicious slope of love he slipped,
unable to resist its endless beckonings,
impervious no longer.
His ailing health was the price for his
selfish desire, a melting pot of emotion
which grew ever more leaden.
For what could he do? Nothing,
nothing but grimace at the sun
and grin at the night’s domain.
‘Twas a lonesome night upon which
a washerwoman ‘Murder!’ cried as
she ran through the streets for help.
‘This young lad, murdered has been,
murdered by a vicious thing,
which knows only death.’
‘Murder’d by love, his heart devour’d,
overwhelmed by things of love born,
his heart and mind torn.’
His spirit wandered the mortal plaines,
seeking his lost love as she
soon forgot his adoring glance in her direction.
A lover’s life has no happy ending,
fraught with a lover’s hopes and wishes,
rarely obliged but always present.
This occur to him did not, a wandering thing
free from all aspects of mortality but one,
the strongest of them all.
The dead feel no pain, it is said,
but the exquisite pain of heartbreak
remains vigilant in its uniqueness.
The pain of love unique truly is,
a pain born of bliss and inflicted
through the happiness it gives.
A shadow of a man he was once more,
cast down by that which helped him see
and doomed to lie on the doorstep of his heart’s desire.
Peace would not come, and neither would release
as his heart beat for his love even though
beat it could not.
A future decided by something
scribbled on a piece of paper
with a pen.
A person’s worth measured
by the length of their words;
and their order.
A soul dissected until
secrets to uncover
do not remain.
A life charted by those
unknowing of circumstances who know
only good or bad.
A spirit shattered by red ink on white
devoid of passion or interest
desperate for its wage.
A being judged by academic skill
with no thought wasted
on kindness of heart.
As four elements of old unite
Diverse in their intent,
Their nuances together form
The earth that to us has been lent.
Earth, Fire, Water and Air
Revered by Ancients of bygone days,
Their discord forged a pact
That for eternity will remain.
So must a team find its roots
In brethren not alike,
Who at the slightest sign of dissonance
Together must stride.
As alchemists once professed
Their elements of belief,
The elements of new must find
A fraternity of relief.
Through brotherhood things might change
A trickle before a stream,
A portent of our future
Or maybe just a dream.
As I got into the carriage, my mind was preoccupied with thoughts of my application to the House of Lords. Had it been accepted? Refused? I was on my way to find out.
A while into the journey, the carriage master explained that we would have an unexpected delay. Apparently a horse had gone and died in the middle of the road, and we would have to take the route through the Peasant Quarter. As we drove, I started to tuck into the meal that the servants had prepared for me. Cold fillet of lamb, a selection of cheeses from Europe and our finest dairies, and a bottle of brandy to keep me warm, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at the Peasant Quarter. The buildings to either side grew smaller and smaller, wooden beams covered in mould. People crowded together in the streets, and the putrid smell of sewage was accompanied by the unmistakable odour of festering flesh. The cobblestones grew larger and rougher, and could be felt through the voluptuous leather seats of the carriage. Peat fires burned all over the place, its smell wafting in through the driver’s window. By now we had reached the heart of the Peasant Quarter, and nearly all of the buildings had boarded up windows and doors which hung off their hinges. The centre, though decrepit and deserted, was the most crowded area I had seen so far. Merchants hawked their wares, selling the usual scraps of food, ragged clothes and hocus pocus. Rats crawled everywhere, simply everywhere, hindered only by squat old spinsters with brooms. As we pressed deeper and deeper into the fold, the lethargy that held these people was almost tangible. Beggars roamed the streets, banging against the four walls of the carriage and spilling my brandy in the process. The smell of sewage was momentarily replaced by the ever more putrid stench of desperation. Here was a different world, a world that had never heard of Stilton or Champagne, a world apart from mine. Here was a corporeal hell.
As the House of Lords loomed in the distance, I began to realise that my not joining the House was the least of London Town’s problems. That was dangerous thinking, and if I had any hope of becoming something in this world, it had to be squashed. Eliminated. As I climbed the steps to the House those thoughts had already been banished by ambition.
First try at Haiku.
A lover wrings water
onto a cold floor –
But tears remain.
First few paragraphs of a work in progress.
I suppose one could say that I had been blessed with a life of happiness and contentment. My home, Sinom, was a centre of excellence. A place where ceremony was all and work was left to those who refused to abide by the tenets of Sinom. The Cultus, as they were called, lived on the outskirts of Sinom in specially designated areas, emerging only at night to tend to the city and prepare for the next day’s celebrations. I had only seen one once, scarpering towards its home as the sun started to rise. You see, Cultus were forbidden the sun. They could not emerge from their shaded residential and commercial areas during the day. But for me, Sinom’s beauty was astounding. The central tower was plated with copper, reflecting the sun’s rays throughout the city. The tower was surrounded by circular districts, like a great segmented disc, and gardens were set at the cardinal points of the compass, their precisely shaped lakes reflecting the light projected by the tower.
Essay entered for a competition which unfortunately yielded no results.
It has been a while since I slept. The thought of the patient I could not save is embedded in my mind. I lay awake at night, questioning myself and my profession, trying to justify his death before God’s eyes, and before my own.
They brought him to me, after the battle. Nineteen years of age. A stray blade had knocked him off his horse, and the terrified animal trod on him. Gangrene had set in, and he lost both his legs from the knee down. We grew closer and closer together, as time passed and his wounds began to heal. Or so I thought. When we talked, I would sometimes notice a rash around the stumps of his legs, which was normal for his condition. As time passed, it spread, reaching his thighs. I began to worry that the tissue was dying, and sure enough, after a few days, it began to stench as the tissue rotted and the necrosis spread. I tried everything to halt its progress. Herbs, salves, poultices, prayers. Nothing seemed to work. It was too late. The illness had gone too deep. He died a week later. I had failed. I was frustrated with myself; I should have been better than that. I should have saved him.
War is a despicable thing. It robs you of your humanity, makes you question your own existence and doubt your judgement as you become a number, a chess piece on a board, a weapon to be used and discarded. It frustrates you as you see your comrades fall around you, helpless to save them. Because that’s what war does, really. It robs you of the ability to act, to change the situation, and it is the most frustrating thing on the planet. You are helpless to act, just one man on the field of battle, one man against the collective swarm of human hatred and agony, with a heart of lead but fists of putty, unable to do anything to stem the tide. Not having the ability to do something, however, is not absolution, and even if you save a hundred people and lose one, that one will torment you until you come to terms with it.
Now, thinking back, I realise that whatever I could have done, I did. Death is inevitable, and it may decree that we pay our price now rather than later. My patient and I are both victims of war, tormented by our inadequacies and massacred by our fellow human beings, and though my patient died, and I will carry the guilt of his death to my grave, it is something I can deal with. A human failing. I turn over and close my eyes.
Find the poem here: Martyr
Radiant disc, without sign of chore
Climbing into realm of deepest blue,
Creation hearing an inaudible call
Yearning to bask in its living hue.
Radiant disc, without sign of chore – The sun is the symbol of all that is nature, and in itself shows the cycle of life, which is birth, life, and death, or sunrise, noon and sunset, doing this with a regal effortlessness.
Climbing into realm of deepest blue, – The skies are undeniably the sun’s territory, and they seem to sorrow in its absence. Now that the sun is back, they have come to life once more.
Creation hearing an inaudible call – This line is one of the key lines to the poem, showing that where there is nature, represented by the sun, there is creation, light and peace (inaudible call)
Yearning to bask in its living hue. – The light that life provides is derived from the light of the sun, which represents nature.
Bird aloft calls to loving mate,
Cry apart from malice or hate,
As a hidden tapestry of life
Unfolds, and forgotten is strife.
Bird aloft calls to loving mate – This represents the love present in nature.
Cry apart from malice or hate, – Creation is shown to be pure and free of sin, without artifice or deception.
As a hidden tapestry of life – Whilst nature might seem to be quiet at times, a hidden world lies at our feet. Microscopic life forms, plants and trees, insects and all manner of creatures lie behind the curtain.
Unfolds, and forgotten is strife. – Where there is nature, all troubles and worries are forgotten, and joy is attained.
Innocence’s living melancholy
Alas, is downed by treacherous foe,
Claimed by poison strong and unholy,
Territory sacred forced to forgo.
Innocence’s living melancholy – Here, nature is being represented by melancholic innocence. Melancholic because of its grace and profoundity; innocent because it does not deserve the crime that is about to be perpetrated.
Alas, is downed by treacherous foe, – Nature has been betrayed by its own relation. Humanity, which is derived from nature, seeks to rebel against its master.
Claimed by poison strong and unholy, – The weapon used against nature is one that cannot be seen, one that attacks slowly but surely, and can only be detected by its symptoms. What has been provided by nature has been perverted into something that destroys it, and so is unholy.
Territory sacred forced to forgo. – Every scrap of land lost to a foe, like every cell claimed by a virus, is sacrilegious, and intensifies the destruction of nature’s lifeblood.
Living calm made martyr by fire,
Eternal call bruised and battered so,
Foe victorious by force and ire,
Hero now mere weave and fresco.
Living calm made martyr by fire, – The destruction of greenery is reminiscent here of the martyrdom of thousands of people who died for their beliefs. Here, nature is dying whilst trying to uphold its principles and beliefs.
Eternal call bruised and battered so, – The call mentioned in the third line above is gotten rid of in any way possible, abused and deformed to serve selfish means.
Foe victorious by force and ire, – Physical force and anger are used to bring about the destruction of nature.
Hero now mere weave and fresco. – Nature, the ‘hero’ of this world as it teaches, civilizes and expresses, is only present now in art, in the fibers used for clothing, and in tapestries.
Gracious tears of light and water,
Shed by once purest azure,
Searching in vain for slightest fissure
Or gutter along a holy cloister.
Gracious tears of light and water, – Raindrops seem to be nature’s tears as they fall, reflecting an echo of what once was (light).
Shed by once purest azure, – The sky is no longer blue; it is darkened by sin, betrayal and poison.
Searching in vain for slightest fissure – The unyielding solidity of concrete and asphalt does not permit nature’s tears to return to their source.
Or gutter along a holy cloister. – Whilst nature was once regarded as sacred, it is not any longer. Even the cloisters of an abbey or church do not allow the tears of nature passage. This is the epitome of nature’s betrayal.
Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. ~Max Frisch
Swathes of grey and metal chrome,
Where once was life and vigor,
Survived only by dusty tome
Lying in its grave of rigor.
Swathes of grey and metal chrome, – This embodies destruction of environmental and natural sites, leaving dull grey in its stead.
Where once was life and vigor, – Whilst nature was lively and full of vigor, or enthusiastic energy, the rule of mankind has brought dejection where there once was so much more.
Survived only by dusty tome – The last remnants of nature can only be found buried in a dusty book, for the memory of them also grows dusty, and nature has become history, and not a living experience.
Lying in its grave of rigor. – The closing line sums up what the departure of nature really signifies. Death and rigor are all that remains.
Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. ~Max Frisch
They step forward,
Their hands aclapsed,
Their dance about to begin.
A fair maiden and her suitor,
Joined by fate’s devices,
Entangled for eternity.
The lass’s visage is a semblance of beauty,
Deemed proper by her Creator,
And ’tis Love her name.
Her partner Life knows
That without her,
He is nothing.
The dance begins,
the wailing of the instruments astringed
a harmonious discord.
Together as one being,
Eyes locked in endless embrace,
For they know that as one
No obstacle will claim them,
Nor foe earthy or otherworldly.
But only as one.
For should their gaze quaver,
Their grip loosen,
Fall they would.
And dance a different dance
A dance of Lust and Loss
Their grasp tightens,
Their gaze strengthens,
And on they dance.
The world against me seems
Torn at the seams
When that smile I do not see.
When those shining eyes fall into I do not
That familiar form I do not spot
My sorrow does not end.
But when I that voice I hear
A friend concerned, a companion dear,
Despair the battle has lost.
A friend I have again found
All bitterness is drowned
Because of that smile.