MY ANNA

Along the banks of the barge canal
in the village park, a man
older, his hair white, almost
a mane, sits on the breakwall
feeding Wonder bread
to the small flotilla of ducks.
Tearing shreds of crust
from a slice, he casts it
onto the water and smiles
as they bob for the crumbs.
He tells them the story
of his life as though
they were his oldest friends.
My Anna, he says,
was a special woman,
I met her one night
in the cramped vestibule
of an Indian take away
in London during a blackout.
We heard the sirens and then
a blast, not far off.
She grabbed my arm in fear.
She was from Marlow-on-Thames,
she lived in a small flat
in the Bottom, she worked
days in a millinery,
and at night tended bar
at the Local, until the war.
She’s been gone two years now
and I miss her terribly
especially late at night.
A goose slowly swims over
awaiting her meal, she
looks deeply into his eyes.
How are you, dearest Anna,
it is not the same without you
late at night when the silence
is broken again by the sirens.

First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

AFGHAN, ANYONE

Symbols have deep meaning
even to those so blind they
cannot see them, and our politics
have become wholly retail.

Any good retailer will tell you
that $19.95 is significantly
less than $20.00, a nickel
that swallows the dollars.

So we got out, and nineteen
years and 354 days
is considerably shorter
than twenty years we are told,

but everything blew up around us,
but I’m sure the politicians will note
that a dozen dead, while tragic
is far less than a baker’s dozen.

ENDGAME

He knew it was time
to call it a career when
they handed him the list
of what he could not say,
what terms were verbotten,
what topics were off limits.

Once upon a time he watched
the fight over textbooks,
how they approached sensitive
subjects like race, war, equality,
but he could teach around
whatever strictures they
would ignorantly impose.

But now whole topics,
entire aspects of history
were off limits, and he knew
he would not be an educator
but merely an indoctrinator and he
wanted no part of that.

MARS

Mars has risen in the western sky.

Perhaps it is waiting for the moon
to draw our attention,
but the moon is periodically
irascible, as tonight, and has
chosen to abandon Mars
to the stellar firmament.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

I wander into the dark in search
of the peace that only
night affords, but the horizon
is war and disquiet
and I stumble and repeatedly
fall, and the ground holds me
denying me the sky.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

The plants that have reached
for the sun, and borne
fruit for months
now shrink and wither
under his unrepentant eye,
and I know a cold
foreboding wind will
still blow and I will mourn
the passing of summer,
the season on peace.

Mars has risen in the western sky
and Jupiter watches jealously.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

GREAT DANGER

There are those who say
that we are engaged
in a culture war, and that
may be an apt description,
even as it misses its mark.

It is hardly cultures that
are at war, but those who
take shelter under their
false mantle, armored
in labels, shielded by cliches.

But the weapons of the war
are quite real, known
for ages, Stalin and Alexie
calling them out by turns,
for they pose the danger.

In this war it is ideas
that are wielded ruthlessly,
ideas to be most feared
if they are not shared,
ideas that must be suppressed.

THE WALL

The wall is black granite,

highly polished be an unseen hand

and the fingers of countless thousands

present but each unseen by the others.

At first glance you want to count

the names, but you lack fingers

enough for the task and others

are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.

You know where the names are,

Willy, who they now call William,

Little Joey, who was so large in your

memory, climbing into the cockpit.

You wonder if things had been different,

if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen

the Air Force, if the Draft Board

anointed you cannon fodder, who

would trace their fingers along

the cold unfeeling stone that has

been washed by untold tears bidding

you farewell or thanks, rarely both.

We have grown so good at wars

we no longer need etched walls,

bronze statues, for before a design

is complete, the next must be begun.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

MISSING SONGS

The problem, or one of them, is
the lack of music today. We have
all manner of what people call music,
but not the music of the sort
we need, needed once and found,
as we stormed the bastions
and bastards who mired us in war,
who shunned darker brothers
and sisters, who made alienable
basic rights to half of us without
rhyme or reason, save greed
and fear of loss of status, power.

Where are the songs now,
calling us, you, to regain
the victories, no matter how small
that we won with our sweat
and often our blood, eroded
or taken over time by those
who live in the shadows, who
crawl out in the dark, who
dread the light we would
so willingly shine on them again.

A NAME

Someone said that you must name something
before you can really know it, and we
have gone about naming everything, even
as we know less and less about those things.

We have grown so adept at naming things,
that we have created multiple names
for the things that we find the most problematic,
for then they can be more easily ignored.

Where once we found ourselves in wars,
we now engage in armed conflicts,
police actions, and where we are the aggressor,
active dispute resolution operations.

The bodies that litter the battlefield
did not stop to consider whether they
were at war, and had morphed into police,
they did not resolve any dispute with their blood.

MARCH ON

We marched regularly, often carring placards,
this week against an insane war
in a place we had no busines being,
next week for the racial justice
promised for a century but never delivered,
and then for the ecology, trying to save
the world that our parents promised
for us as little children and failed
to provide, choking through the smog
and the teargas, scraping knees
on the concrete as we were pushed
back, pushed away, pushed into a corner.

Then we were marching in uniform,
across the pavement in Texas, Lackland,
Fort Sam Houston, sergeants always by
our sides, always willing to remind us
that we were dirt, incompetent, useless,
but they’d make us into soldiers, they
would find the cohesiveness we lacked.

Now we are struggling not to march,
not to be lemmings headed for the cliff,
not to give up the small victories
once won,not at war now, still searching
for justice for all, still chokng
on the air we have made putrid,
and we teach our grandchildren
how to march, how never to give up.