Thomas Penrose, 'The Carousal of Odin'

The Carousal of Odin

Fill the honey’d bev’rage high,
Fill the sculls, ’tis Odin’s cry:
Heard ye not the powerful call,
Thund’ring thro’ the vaulted hall?
“Fill the meath, and spread the board,
“Vassals of the griesly Lord.”—

The portal hinges grate,—they come—
The din of voices rocks the dome.
In stalk the various forms, and, drest
In various armour, various vest,
With helm and morion, targe and shield,
Some quivering launces couch, some biting maces wield:
All march with haughty step, all proudly shake the crest.
The feast begins, the scull goes round,
Laughter shouts—the shouts resound.
The gust of war subsides—E’en now
The grim chief curls his cheek, and smooths his rugged brow.

“Shame to your placid front, ye men of death!”
Cries Hilda, with disorder’d breath.
Hell echoes back her scoff of shame
To the inactive rev’ling Champion’s name.
“Call forth the song,” she scream’d;—the minstrels came
The theme was glorious war, the dear delight
Of shining best in field, and daring most in fight;

“Joy to the soul,” the Harpers sung,
“When embattl’d ranks among,
The steel-clad Knight, in vigour’s bloom,
(Banners waving o’er his plume)
“Foremost rides, the flower and boast
“Of the bold determin’d host!”
With greedy ears the guests each note devour’d,
Each struck his beaver down, and grasp’d his faithful sword.
The fury mark’d th’ auspicious deed,
And bade the Scalds proceed.

“Joy to the soul! a joy divine!
“When conflicting armies join;
“When trumpets clang, and bugles sound;
“When strokes of death are dealt around;
“When the sword feasts, yet craves for more;
“And every gauntlet drips with gore.”—

The charm prevail’d, up rush’d the madden’d throng,
Panting for carnage, as they fum’d along.
Fierce Odin’s self led forth the frantic band,
To scatter havock wide o’er many a guilty land.

By Thomas Penrose

Amir Or, 'The Barbarians (Round Two)'

The Barbarians (Round Two)

It was not in vain that we awaited the barbarians,
it was not in vain that we gathered in the city square.
It was not in vain that our great ones donned their official robes
and rehearsed their speeches for the event.
It was not in vain that we smashed our temples
and erected new ones to their gods;
as proper we burnt our books
that have nothing in them for people like that.
As the prophesy foretold the barbarians came,
and took the keys to the city from the king’s hand.
But when they came they donned the garments of the land,
and their customs were the customs of the state;
and when they commanded us in our own tongue
we no longer knew when
the barbarians had come to us.

By Amir Or
Translated by Vivian Eden

Charles Chaim Wax, 'The Barbarians Were Beaten Down But Too Late'

The Barbarians Were Beaten Down But Too Late

When Max walked he tottered
the left leg shriveled at birth
a good six inches
blamed the Germans
because they tortured
his grandfather at Bergen- Belson
the tormented genes
never recovering
tainting his father, now him
said I didn’t see the connection
told me the story:
a guy took some rubber
from a broken conveyor belt
for the bottom his tattered shoe
the SS found him
bitter cold that day
stripped him naked
feet seized by a pail of water
the prisoners watching all this
at twilight
left him there
at dawn
liquid now solid ice
incredibly the man still alive
then blew a hole through his heart
no blood
too frigid to flow
Max’s grandfather
unable to breathe
terror too much for him
more to come
a simple death not enough
for the SS
so shot off the dead man’s ear
and crippled Max
for life.

By Charles Chaim Wax

L.S. Asekoff, 'The Conquerors'

The Conquerors

They showed us the white flower of surrender
They showed us the red
They fell down before us at the gates of their city
Terrible to behold we hovered above them
Lords of the Air
We promised them the peace
That passeth all understanding
We promised them the freedom of the broken knee
Only the conquered can know
Rumors arose strange premonitions
A talking fish a white crow
& news of uprisings in the distant provinces
Trouble closer to home
Victims killing victims a priest cried
Who is blameless?
The Lords of the Air who dare not touch earth?
Those who kill without risking death?
Following the itinerary of stars
We returned to our city
There we found they had raised in our absence
At the center of the great walled marketplace
A statue to Phobos
God of Fear
As they fell down before us
Perhaps we can be forgiven for asking
Having lived so long among strangers
What is there to fear?

By L.S. Asekoff

Elisha Porat, 'The Lost Son'

The Lost Son

He came back, but he came like a stranger
He came back, looked about and did not
Recall, for to him, all appeared estranged:
The house, the yard, the narrow lane.
Their memory sliced through his heart,
Cut, and he who survived and was favoured
Came back; and he who had sworn back there
That nothing would he forget, estranged though it be:
A dirt path, and the barren field and the ditch
At the edge, and the Lemon tree with its bitter fruit.
He felt that his absence was almost ordained:
To come back at last, to come like a stranger
With a shadowy memory that was not estranged,
And an unravelled thread of burning desire
That will never more be made whole.

By Elisha Porat
Translated from Hebrew to English by Asher Harris

Clive James, 'Nimrod'


Some marched, some sailed, some flew to join the war,
And not a few were brought home on their shields.
My heart is with those voiceless ones. They were
The harvest of the broken-hearted fields,
And I drew fortune from their bitter lack
Of any luck. Silent, my father stands
Before me now, as if he had come back,
While this lament, whose beauty never ends,
Not even with its final grandeur, casts
Its nets of melody to hold me still
Beneath his empty eyes. How long it lasts,
That spell, though it is just a little while.
Then he is gone again. The world returns:
Babylon, where the Tower of Babel burns.

By Clive James

Olive Lindsay, 'Despair'


Half of me died at Bapaume,
And the rest of me is a log:
For my soul was in the other half;
And the half that is here is a clog
On the one that would always be doing
In days never to come again
Carry me into the darkness sir,
And put me out of my pain.

The best of me died at Bapaume
When the world went up in fire,
And the soul that was mine deserted
And left me, a thing in the mire,
With a madden’d and dim remembrance
Of a time when my life was whole.
Carry me into the darkness sir,
And let me find my soul.

If half of you went at Bapaume,
And with it your soul went too,
That soul has laid as a sacrifice
The half that was torn from you.
At the feet of the One who Himself has given,
Laid all that a man can give;
And then you will return to the other half
And show it how to live.

by Olive Lindsay

Steve Earle, 'The Gringo's Tale'

The Gringo's Tale

Beggin' your pardon there stranger
You look like you're new to this town
We're a long way away from the beach here
You won't see many gringos around

Well I come from West Colorado
And I've wandered this world far and wide
I've lived for some years in the shadows
And my eyes are unused to this light

If you buy me a strong drink of whiskey
I will tell you the tale of my life
It's long and it's sad but it fits me
And it may bring a tear to your eye

All the men of my family were soldiers
The hard fightin' straight talkin' kind
When my turn came all that was over
But I'd already made up my mind

I was there when we blew though Grenada
And I still have to ask myself why
Then we took down that fool Noriega
That's where I caught the good colonel's eye

Well he asked me if I loved my country
And before I had time to reply
He regaled me with tales of past glories
I believed every one of his lies

So I left my old life behind me
Turned my back on my family and friends
And I did everything that they asked me
And I lost some sleep now and again

And I lived like a thief and assassin
I smuggled their poisons sometimes
Until I asked the wrong question in passin'
And the colonel himself dropped the dime

So if you're ever in west Colorado
Tell the folks in Durango goodbye
There's a price on my head and I can't go
So I'll just wait around here 'til I die

By Steve Earle

US invasion of Panama, 1989-90


Abd al Wahhab Al-Bayati, 'The Book Of Poverty And Revolution'

The Book Of Poverty And Revolution

From the depth I call out to you,
With my tongue dried up, and
By butterflies scorched over your mouth.
Is this snow from the coldness of your nights?
Is this poverty from the generosity of your hands,
With its shadow racing mine at the gate of night,
Crouching hungry and naked in the field,
Pursuing me to the river?
Is this silent stone from my tomb?
Is this time, crucified in the puplic square, from my life?
IS this you, o my time,
Your face scratched in the mirror,
Your conscience dead under the feet of whores?
And your poor people have sold you
To the dead among the living.
Who then shall sell to the dead?
Who shall shatter the silence?
Who among us
IS the hero of our time to repeat what we have said?
And who will whisper to the wind
The hint that we are still alive?
Is this dead moon a man,
On the mast of dawn, on a garden-wall?
Do you rob me?
Do you leave me?
Without a homeland and a shroud?
Once, alas, we were small and there was . . .
Would that poverty were a man,
Then I would kill him and drink his blood!
Would that poverty were a man!
I called out to the departing ships,
To the migrating swan,
To a night, rainy despite the stars,
To autumn leaves, to eyes,
To all that was and shall be,
To the fire, to branches,
To the deserted street,
To the drops of rain, to the bridges,
To the shattered star,
To the hoary memories,
To all the hours in the darkened houses,
To the word,
To the artist's brush,
To the shade and color,
To the sea and the pilot
I called out,
"let us burn,
So that sparks will fly from us,
And illumine the rebels' cry,
And awaken the rooster that is dead on the wall."

By Abd al Wahhab Al-Bayati