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23rd-Jan-2017 01:00 am - Lolita Stewart-White, 'If Only'
If Only
for Willie Edwards

If only it hadn’t been 1957
in a wooded area near Alabama, but it was;
or missing black folks hadn’t been looked for less
than missing shoes, and they weren’t;
or if only those Klansmen hadn’t gathered,
intent on finding a black man, and they were,
or if only they hadn’t stopped him on that gravel road,
or beaten him until they could see the white beneath his skin,
or marched him at gun point onto that bridge, and they did;
or if only they hadn’t said, “Bet this nigger can’t swim,”
or hooted and hollered as he fell from fifty feet,
or laughed as he vanished in the river’s moonlight, but they did;
or if only his death hadn’t been ruled suicide, and it was,
or his murderers hadn’t been set free, and they were,
or the daughter he left behind hadn’t had to live her life without him,
but she did.

by Lolita Stewart-White

Willie Edwards, killed January 23 1957
22nd-Jan-2017 01:00 am - Rise Against, 'Grammatizator'

We celebrate the downfall with ticker tape parades
Oblivious to the fucking mess left lying in the wake
"God grant me the strength to let my children starve"
He whispered to the dripping roof into the candled dark
Contemplate contracts of gold
Just wave your hand and relinquish control
Nine lives await to unfold
We bury ten thousand stories untold

First with insurrection batting eyes from afar
In skybox seats or hotel suites, six figure fucking cars
Contemplate contracts of gold
Just wave your hand and relinquish control
Nine lives await to unfold
Bury the stories

Control the heart
Control the mind
Control the hands

To build what they've designed
Lifetimes of silence and apathy
Ensure the prompt demise of our humanity
Contemplate contracts of gold
Just wave your hand and relinquish control
Nine lives await to unfold
We bury ten thousand stories
The stories untold

By 'Rise Against'

21st-Jan-2017 01:00 am - T.A. Girling, 'The Bond'
The Bond

Up from the cheerless billets,
From trenches and listening post,
From huts, and dugouts, and gunpits,
From the hearts of a watching host,
In the dark drear night of danger,
When the soul can hide its pain,
Comes the striving, yearning, longing
For the love of a home again.

Like the misty veil of morning,
When the sun draws back the dew,
The pure, bright, quickened memories
Turn back to home anew.
From lonely hearts of Britain
The love that made them brave,
Returns to seek communion
With those it left to save.

It heeds not the hungry waters,
Nor distance, nor time can pen,
From the longing call of their dear ones,
The love of a million men.
From husband, and father, and brother,
Companion, and lover, and son,
The love of a nation is passing
With the sound of the midnight gun.

In the treasured home of Britain,
In cottage, and villa, and hall,
With glistening eyes of watching,
Is an answer to the call ;
And the truth, and patience of woman,
In the pain that she bears alone,
Gives back to the heart that seeks it
The love that is all its own.

They vaunt of the power to conquer
In the massed and heated guns,
But the matchless might of Britain
Lies deep in the heart of her sons.
The hard, stern road of duty,
The unseen cloud above,
Are one in Britain's glory,
The conquering power of love.

by T.A. Girling
2lst January, 1917
20th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - George Horton, 'Love'

Home from the battle plain
They brought their bravest, slain.

Oh, not with muffled drum
In sadness did they come.

And not with measured tread
As those who bear the dead.

But like some Bacchic throng
Madly they rushed along.

Waving their weapons high,
Shouting a battle cry.

"The city gates throw wide,
Let Victory in," they cried.

Forth poured in gladness then
The women and old men.

"All praise to these," they shout,
"Who put our foes to rout."

But why that sudden wail,
Turning flushed faces pale?

It was a voice that said:
"My love is dead, is dead!"

"Nay," quoth a warrior grim,
"Weep not, my child, for him.

In sad and desperate fray
His valor saved the day.

He fell upon the spears
With 'Victory!' in his ears.

He died with sword in hand.
The saviour of our land.

In fame to live and live,
This life who would not give?"

She answered him and said:
"But he is dead, is dead."

Spake then in bitter pain
The mother of the slain.

"And is he dead, my son,
My beauteous, peerless one?

Yet liefer would I know
That thus he lieth low.

Than if he lived to shame
And blight an honest name!"

"Aye," cried the slain one's sire
Flushing with sudden fire,

"Glory now hath the boy;
I yield my all with joy!"

Still o'er the stretcher bent;
In grief's abandonment,

That young wife worldly fair,
Moaning in anguish there.

And this is all she said:
"My love is dead, is dead!"

Out stepped a poet then,
Great, though unknown of men.

"The task," he cried, "be mine
To sing this deed divine.

To tell its beauteous worth
For all the years of earth;

To wed it with sweet sound
While this dark world goes round.

So shall his name outlast
These walls and temples vast,

Yea, e'en his native land,
Though ages drift like sand."

He ceased. The young wife said:
"But he is dead, is dead."

Up then a sculptor spake:
"Why sorrow for his sake?

For I will shape his face
In marble's deathless grace.

And I will hew his form
In living curves and warm,

Showing all after days
This hero whom we praise."

The lone one answering said:
"But he is dead, is dead."

A painter next spake out:
"Mine be to show war's rout,

Wan hate and fury's spell,
The night and fire of hell,

And tall amidst the gloom
Our deathless dead shall loom,

Pointing the fearful way
Where fame and victory lay."

And then a gladsome cheer
Rose lusty, far and near,

From all but one, who said:
"My love is dead, is dead!"

Hundreds of years since then
Full of forgotten men,

Have melted noiselessly,
Like snowdrops in the sea.

The song that poet sung
Yet lives in many a tongue;

The warrior's carven form
Still seems alert and warm;

Men thrill with pride to-day
Seeing that painted fray.

But ah, from long ago
There drifts a sound of woe,

A weary, sad refrain,
Making all glory vain,

The voice of her who said:
"But he is dead, is dead!"

by George Horton
19th-Jan-2017 02:00 am - Randall Jarrell, 'The Learners'
The Learners

When the planes come in all night, and the lights reach, wavering,
Into the empty barracks for the crews - the old, old crews -
And the faces, shapeless at waking, stare from the rainy turrets,
For the faces - the old, lost faces; and slowly the blind light greys
That dreams of the old wars; and the lines brood listlessly
Beside the pools of the runways, in the thin, unending rain -
The dead lines; when you remember
Will you care then - dead in someone else's dream -
That you lived, that you died? Waking at twilight to the haunting brain
That is your world now, ghosts, have you learned anything?

By Randall Jarrell
19th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - George Meredith, 'Atkins'

Yonder's the man with his life in his hand,
Legs on the march for whatever the land,
Or to the slaughter, or to the maiming,
Getting the dole of a dog for pay.
Laurels he clasps in the words 'duty done,'
England his heart under every sun:-
Exquisite humour! that gives him a naming
Base to the ear as an ass's bray.

by George Meredith
Carthage and Airplanes

Carthage likes to ride in airplanes.
Up in the sky he can forget
About the schedules of earth.
It is almost like thinking,
Gazing out the window at the clouds.
He likes to ponder.
“We’re pretty high up,” he says
To his aides.
“I wonder if we could go much higher.“
Everyone looks thoughtful.
Back on earth ten-year-olds heft Uzis,
People drop dead on sidewalks,
Friendship sours like old milk.
How much better it is in the sky!
Too bad you have to be going somewhere.
Too bad the endless limo will appear
And some suit or turban or daishiki
Will greet you and start
Telling you about what’s going
To happen soon or happened yesterday.
“Why don’t you fly around more?”
Carthage would like to say to them.
If you live in the sky, nothing happens.
You don’t even see the rain.
It is almost like thinking.

By Baron Wormser
[This is from former Maine Poet Laureate Baron Wormser's poem cycle about a fictional president named Carthage.]

Carthage And The Evil

Carthage is sorting out the bad
From the evil,
A task that could give God a headache.
Carthage shoulders on,
Searching for criteria:
When the evil obliterate a village
They brag about it,
Whereas the bad snivel
And protest that the blood on their hands
Is dye, that they too are victims,
That the ax of reason is an equivocal tool.

Distinctions are dubious
But some rule of thumb is required.
Without distinctions you'd be at it forever.

Carthage finds solace in imagining
The demise of the evil.
They will be standing in a room screaming
Or pointing a pistol at the sky.
The ceiling will dance on them.
Imploded stars will impale them.

The righteous murder the evil
So the bad can live in murderous peace.
The good, like the widow's
Three sons who were in the marketplace
Purchasing lentils and chickpeas when the fires descended,
Do not appear in any strategic equations.

The good have no ambassadors.
They are tasteless as water.
They drudge in apolitic mills of love.

Look at the evil,
Carthage is saying to the bad.
I am measuring their tyranny.
It is like a shoe size.
You better talk to your miserable, human feet
That are always growing.

by Baron Wormser
17th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - Ivor Gurney, 'Song'

Only the wanderer
Knows England's graces,
Or can anew see clear
Familiar faces.

And who loves joy as he
That dwells in shadows?
Do not forget me quite,
O Severn meadows.

By Ivor Gurney (January 1917)
A Taste of Afghanistan

City sand has its own taste
Not the country’s dust,
But darker.
It’s stronger – bitter parts
Under infantry foot.
Under 500 years going and coming.
Kipling’s finest up and over –
Through the pass,
Through the places where soldiers stood
In stolid white snow.
Cemeteries in the pass where Alexander’s own
Fell on the square rocks.
Paved with smoothed over river rock,
This open grave – white, bare.

Kabul sand polishes everyone’s edges.
Tajiks sharp on the cusp
And Northern Alliance coming down
Hard in the fray.
They all want each other’s throats.
Their wives lost in the fight –
Save for pointed heels and
Gold bangled over fine red henna.

Eastern sand and southern sand,
Pakistan sand crooked as broken teeth,
Herati sand pure and rising to the top.
Nothing mixes and there is no space in between.
If God loved this place he doesn’t now.
If He breathed in the brass bullet casings
And the diesel air and spiteful prayers.
A place for lust and dirty children
And the things night can hide.

What things grown men can hide-
In the dark corners of their own children’s rooms.
In the big shadows of a capital with no master and no disciple.
No scope for all things to come together
The sand and the dust and the dirt that makes things grow-
When it is left alone.

But we’ve put our fingers in it
And the stirring and stamping won’t leave
Much for the growing.
Dust bowls and cyclone air will take the rest.
Every village is filled with it now –
Dust from our bombs and inside our APCs.
Dirt scrubbed from our rifle actions
And ground into our sweaty palms like Mississippi silt.

And still nothing grows.
I’ve taken a knee in seventeen villages –
On street corners and broken down roundabouts,
On highways and in shattered homes.
On helo pads and plywood chapel steps,
On the backs of dead men-
And screaming vile women.

They will, all of them, bend or break –
It is either them or me.
It’s either winning or losing
And putting in its place
What does not belong,
Sand of a different taste and hue
That cannot tell me it is sorry.

By Rob Densmore (2009)
15th-Jan-2017 02:00 am - Edward Godfree, 'Sunsets'

The white body of the evening
Is torn in scarlet,
Slashed and gouged and seared
Into crimson,
And hung ironically
With garlands of mist.

And the wind
Blowing over London from Flanders
Has a bitter taste.

By Edward Godfree
Quagmires of the Past

As dusk is nigh
and birds take flight
to a resting place chosen
for the weary,
so, too, do we gather closer
to each other
and the shimmering stars
over our platoons
are about to enter the foreground.

The awe of sounds
in our midst
that are strangely familiar
lessen our burdens
a wondrous puzzle
infused with
glorious metaphors
coupled with terror
as our constant companion
abound with questions
and a cornucopia
of contemplations.

Will we risk being afraid
to falter?
can we proceed
without caution?
can we thrive
without the momentum
to ask the critical questions,
and investigate
the quagmires of the past?
and where will we go next
what country will we invade
if we don’t?

By Laura Schultz
14th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - Edward Thomas, 'Rain'

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying tonight or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be for what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

By Edward Thomas
Silence Condones McEmpire

Dollar menu
Serves up fast kill.
We pay the bill.
Spent uran'um? -
Small watts; big ill.
To store, or sell?
Makes heavy shell.
Blasts through walls well.
Recycled hell.
Deployed now, swell.

Flash fries dark ass.
Such menu class-
Crispy critters!
Some sauce? Must ask.
Eat here? To go?
Death swift, then slow.

Too late to know
the drift, winds blow
the toxic flow
through lungs, bestows
a silent blow
to genes; there sown
such seeds of woe.

As profits grow,
Health defects show.
Yet who will know
how was bestown
this plague of glow?
With press in tow;
Truth's shaft - sans bow.
As Vets soon go
Six feet below
More graves to mow.
Their healthcare dough
Becomes ZERO!

Life's value: Low.
We watch the show;
Caught in the flow.
To war we go,
When few say: NO!
The status quo
Lets madness grow.
A shadow foe
Still strikes their blow.
We've sunk so low.
We make no row.
No threat we pose
To leaders, those
Who send the drones
that bombs the homes
In target zones.
Crushed family moans.
While killer clones
Just count the bones.
Silence Condones!

By Richard Ledford (2009)
O tempora, O mores!

Splintered buildings, ruinous trees:
Arms stretched heavenward.
Curling smoke
Mirrors their prayer,
Reflecting the stench of death.
Blackened bodies,
Prostrate in homage to Mars.

Created in love by Love,
With families and friends,
Libran had been their living.
Then Jupiter’s son’s cavalcade came,
Calling them forth
To join him
In heroic acts.

It was cataclysmic.
Sheets became bandages, shrouds,
Furnaces ceased their roar, and
Fields grew like scrub.
Man glared at man
Through previously welcoming eyes,
Now blind to Love’s command.

Why can we not learn?
Thousands of years ago
Isaiah foresaw a remarkable re-forging:
Swords and spears into ploughshares and pruning hooks.
We know the score!
Yet Discordia’s shrieks still overcome
Concordia’s sweet song.

Littering the land,
The rotting corpses
Speak eloquently.
For them, no joy of human interaction,
Of shared experience and achievement,
But enforced carriage to the Styx,
Tongues tainted by a coin.

By Richard Y. Ball
12th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - F.S. Flint, 'Soldiers'

I saw you on a muddy road
in France
pass by with your battalion,
rifle at the slope, full marching order,
arm swinging;
and I stood at ease,
folding my hands over my rifle,
with my battalion.
You passed me by, and our eyes met.
We had not seen each other since the days
we climbed the Devon hills together;
our eyes met, startled;
and, because the order was Silence,
we dared not speak.

O face of my friend,
alone distinct of all that company,
you went on, you went on,
into the darkness;
and I sit here at my table,
holding back my tears,
with my jaw set and my teeth clenched,
knowing I shall not be
even so near you as I saw you
in my dream.

by F.S. Flint
11th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - Edward Porter, 'A Soldier’s Demon'
A Soldier’s Demon

In the fog of war
Believe me, unfortunately I know...
A lot can happen in an instant
In the instant after clear and present danger reveals itself…
Time then slows down, way down
You hear bullets and shrapnel whizzing past you in slow motion,
As if you could reach and pluck them out of thin air...
It is in this moment that you realize that you may be dead…
Before your next thought is able to collect itself in your conscience.

Your finger reaches for the trigger...
You start shooting before you even aim...
As if your entire existence depends on firing your weapon...
You cannot think about anything other than survival...
Not your past, not your family, and not your wife and kids...
All the training means ABSOLUTELY nothing...
No one in your training was willing to die in order to kill you…

Now you start to see red. Different shades of red.
You feel anxious and cosy simultaneously.
You feel inside of the whirlpool and yet on the outside of it as well...
Right and wrong means nothing...only alive and dead are on your mind.
While you wish for an angel in flight to pass by.

As the dust settles you wonder when, how and why
Your mind is dull, yet your body could begin to fly
Is this the end or just another nightmare that will pass by …
No telling apart the screams of the enemy from a friend’s death cry.

By Edward Porter
10th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - Ann-Marie Spittle, 'Night Raids'
Night Raids

The whining rise awakens us from dreams of better times
Zombies in RAF uniforms follow the dimming light to outside
Where the dark leviathans of the empirical kingdom lie in wait
Their charioteers take their seat and gee up their horses
While engineering creatures run about caressing and checking its skin
The beast awakes and we are almost left behind in its wake
Hard to run in boots that have been laden with the blood of many battles
But we are spurred on, and our heels take Mercurial flight
The reader of the stars tells the charioteer our course and we are away
Treading the light fantastic of the sombre darkness
A great water masses below and we know the battle will soon begin in earnest
Now as we approach the torched citadel of the Germanic races
We make our peace with whichever power rules our life
And hope that we die a good death, if we have to
The boy shows his fear as he mutters unintelligible fears
But soon he is calm, for he has trained for this moment
The torches appear and the Angel of Death takes his place
And awaits the charioteer's word
And reigns fire on the once walled city below
The dim lights flare and the beast is awakened
Eating streets as it gains in hunger
We sigh knowing our job is done
Then the leviathan lurches and bucks
Fiery retaliation for our deeds fly into the air
We spur on the beast that has taken us so far
Hoping its love for us will get us home
And there is the land of our forefathers
And we hear the call of the breeze
And we are safe and back in the arms of our comrades
And we are happy and gay
And we forget our occasion as if it was a mere phantasm

By Ann-Marie Spittle
9th-Jan-2017 01:00 am - Wilhelm Klemm, 'Clearing Station'

Clearing Station

Straw rustling everywhere.
The candle-stumps stand there staring solemnly.
Across the nocturnal vault of the church
Moans go drifting and choking words.

There's a stench of blood, pus, shit and sweat.
Bandages ooze away underneath torn uniforms.
Clammy trembling hands and wasted faces.
Bodies stay propped up as their dying heads slump down.

In the distance the battle thunders grimly on,
Day and night, groaning and grumbling non-stop,
And to the dying men patiently waiting for their graves
It sounds for all the world like the words of God.

by Wilhelm Klemm

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