DUST AND ASHES

Between Scylla and Charybdis
they cower amidst the ruins
fearful to look skyward
lest they encourage
the rains of hell.

Now and then they visit
the corpses, hastily buried
grief drowned by the sound
of the laugh of the gunner
peering down from the hills.
It is always night for the soul
and lookout must be kept
for Charon, who rides
silently along the rivers of blood,
that flow through her streets.

In the great halls,
far removed from the horror,
self-professed wise men
exchange maps
lines randomly drawn,
scythes slicing a people.
They trade in lives as chattel,
reaping a bitter harvest,
praying there may only be
but seven lean years.

They offer a sop to Cerberus,
three villages straddling the river,
but the army of the hills
knows they will take that and more
and waits patiently for the winter
when the odor of sanctity
no longer arises out of the city
to assail their nostrils
and Shadrach is
no more than a ghost.

First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.

NUMBER 9?

The truly sad thing is not
that billions were spent
on the voyage to our most distant planet
only to discover, on arrival
it wasn’t a planet at all,
merely a dwarf, a near planet
and yet there was no rebate for the downgrade.
Life is too often like that, you want a mulligan
and all they say is “no returns, no refunds.”
No one asked Charon what he thought
watching it all as he wandered about
knowing he will remain moon
for so long as there is someone, somewhere
assigning names, unless he grows bored,
breaks free and wanders off into being
a dwarf planet all his own, after all
it’s not like Styx would give a damn –
better to be a moon of the first order finally
and as for those billions, if you can’t
leave the solar system every now and again
there’s not much purpose
in escaping the atmosphere.