Night Is A Game That Death Likes To Play

 

“Night is a game that death likes to play,

And dreams are the mind withdrawing from day,”

Breathless, a whisper, these words that she said,

Before I departed for war, and the dead.

 

We kissed and she blushed, an innocent still,

As we lay on the top of the welcoming hill,

Where birds sang in trees of nature’s delight,

While we talked of love, of wrong and of right,

 

We lay on the grass to melt with the sky,

The rosey-sun setting, the moon asking why,

We were one destiny, one body, one mind,

Yet with sunrise I left, to follow the blind.

 

 

Speak Now, My Friends

 

Speak now, my friends, yes speak, but speak true,

Of the darkness descended and what we must do,

When days reek of madness, and nights smell of shame,

And the air smells of gore of the infinite slain.

 

Let’s dream, once again, of democracy’s glade,

The peace and the calm, for which many have paid,

Where the poor are the richest, and the rich are long gone,

And in the bright sunlight the darkness is done.

 

And when we remember all that’s been said,

Of justice for all and where it has led;

While the cruel and the selfish veil their true face,

We’ll sing of the heroes who’ve argued our case.

 

So proudly we’ll speak of the brave ones who die,

There’ll be vows to revenge them, tell truth to the lie,

But yet, as we speak, will come shouts, “who leads me?

So we’ll raise a bright mirror for the doubters to see.

 

But why fades your voice, your eyes look away?

While you suffer alone long night and dark day,

So stay, and reflect, as we join our rough hands,

What our union could do in our, unchained, lands.

 

She Looked In The Fireplace Mirror

 

great-expectations

She looked in the fireplace mirror,

Face lit with the heat of the fire,

That warmed the dead, and the living,

Who of their tears did tire.

 

Around her the few, and the lonely,

Sat quietly, undisturbed,

Yet each the other heard breathing,

Though none dared utter a word.

 

And the priest looked old, and saddening

For he could cast no magical spell-

As the flames of the fire flickered and flared-

He wondered if they were in hell.

 

A cat curled up in a corner,

Content with a memory or two,

Of the one they somehow mourned for,

To whom they had never been true,

 

Two slender, white scented, candles,

Sat graced by two flowers of light,

On top of an elegant casket,

Her bed her fare-welling night.

 

She looked in the fireplace mirror,

At the woman once she had been,

And remembered a longed for lover,

She once had seen, in a dream.

 

She looked in the fireplace mirror,

‘Til the priest hushly whispered, “Let’s pray,”

And the mourners took up their poses,

And thought of the new coming day.

Nagasaki Warning

 

 

 

 

The news came through the din of war,

That things were seen not seen before,

Nor told in tales, nor prophecies,

Nor legends known, our histories,

Of lights and shadows roaming wild,

The veil of death on every child,

 

The news came through of shaking earth,

Of flaming winds and thunderous might,

Of vapours born a bloody birth,

Of melting skin in dark of night,

 

The news came through of cities burned

By blast of flame, by flash of light

As women turned to shadows yearned

For evening songs, a morning bright,

 

The news came through, the last we heard,

Of madmen dancing on a tomb,

Who jeered at life with every word,

And bled the blood from every womb.

 

Then we turned towards the sky,

Towards the rushing, roaring sound,

And, for an instant, wondered why.

 

It Happened One Summer

 

 

 

It happened one summer long, long, ago.

I’ll tell you the tale before you must go,

A young man’s adventure, some claim it was mine,

That took place that summer, in the year ‘69.

 

We rumbled on through the Canadian Shield,

Past forest, past lakes, the occasional field,

Like a cinema show on twin lines of steel,

With music supplied by the rhythmic wheel,

As we sat on our heels or stood by the door,

The old with the young and all of us poor.

 

At the head of the train the red units strained,

To pull all the cars to which they were chained,

Boxcars and flatbeds, tankers, caboose,

“What was that there?” “Oh, that, that’s a moose,”

“Say, you from the city, boy, where’ve you been?”

“Hey, leave him alone. There’s things you ain’t seen.”

 

They all of them laughed, while some lit a smoke,

And one from the Sault offered all a short toke,

That got us all talking of life, or a love,

Or how was it that Mary got knocked-up by a dove?

And all sorts of questions you can’t ask in school,

‘Cause questions cause problems and idiots rule.

 

We slept in our jeans, our shirts and our arms,

Some dreamt of cities, some still of farms,

But all of us dreamt of Vancouver, B.C.

Where we were headed and all meant to be,

For the buzz on the street said things were cool there,

And even the fuzz would treat you real fair.

 

But few of us made it, and few of us cared,

The trip was the thing, not how we fared,

For wherever home was, was a place to avoid;

Better the rails than a wife real annoyed,

Or boredom, a bank, or a job you can’t find,

Hop a freight once, you’ll find your own kind.

 

Stars that like sequins seemed stitched to the sky,

Lit the star-mirrored lakes like rivers that die,

‘Til the morning’s new glow outshone them all,

And one boy said ‘morning’ in a down-easter’s drawl,

To which we each answered, this way and that,

Some back to snoring, some up for a chat.

 

And so the days passed, the train journeyed on,

From the Sault on to Wawa, past White River gone,

On round the lake of Chippewa fame,

The great Gitchigumi, Lightfoot sings of the same;

The wide-open skies directed our way,

“Til on the third day, we hit Thunder Bay.

 

Most of us hungry, food low in each pack,

We hoped for a shower and time in the sack,

But as the train slowed to crawl through the yards

We knew it was over, we’d played all our cards,

The tracks swarmed with bulls, with cops at their side,

So one jumped, then all, for freedom and pride.

 

Some made it, some nabbed, with ten days in jail,

Like Lennie the Loop, we couldn’t make bail,

So did our short stretch, one day at a time,

Kept ourselves laughing with tall tales of crime,

The guards were okay, at least those in the day,

The night was the problem, with those shadows in play.

 

They released us real early, and told us to go,

They didn’t care where, or even to know,

So we walked a few miles, trying the thumb,

But every one passed, why pick up a bum,

Yet onward we kept ‘til we spotted a train,

Stopped on some tracks all wet from new rain.

 

“She’s headed our way, we’ll make Winnipeg,

That’s what I reckon, come on, give it some leg”

So lowdown and fast we ran down the line,

Looking for one that seemed to us fine,

Threw our packs in through a wide open door,

Then jumped in ourselves and rolled on the straw.

 

We lay back, we laughed, we smelled the cold air,

And wondered if, maybe, this life could be fair,

For happy we were out riding the rails,

For trains on the prairie are ships without sails,

And this one would sail before the moon rose,

For we’d picked this one right, this one that we chose,

To carry us rambling through mountain and field,

Wandering sons of Canada’s Shield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Snow On the Path

 

 

 

The snow on the path was in gentle decline,

And gentle drops fell, like dew from the vine,

As blue jays and starlings, and other such thieves,

Called out their names through branches and leaves,

Who fiercely intent on their feathery needs,

Eyed the damp ground for last summer’s seeds,

Picked out by sunbeams, dancing through reeds.

 

A tall man, an old man, on the dampened path stood,

Eyeglasses glinting, head turned to the wood,

To listen, and wonder, what language they spoke,

Or if, instead, dreamed, before they awoke,

And if, in their dreams, these times understood.

 

‘Where went you away? Did you travel so far,

As you followed  the light of this weary star?

Did you happen to fly over Reason’s sweet land?

Did you make it this year to fair Samarkand?’

 

But, before they could answer, a woman’s voice called,

‘Wait, for a moment, there’s one simple thing more,’

Waving her hand from the old cottage door,

‘Don’t forget, sweetie, that bottle of wine,’

He nodded, then smiled, in casual good-bye,

Waved a hand in salute,

Then turned back to the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Escape of Prisoner 4538

 

 

man escaping-night

A Story of Our Time

He ran fast, so fast his lungs were seared. He ran blindly. He ran like a stag hunted by wolves. Night drew him on, tugging him with urgent hands, beckoning him. He tripped on a root, stumbled, fell, heard the shouts, rose, then stumbled again. The ceiling of the sky sparkled as it watched him and the bright, full moon swept his panicked path with a searchlight’s brilliant beam.

The shouts faded, then grew in crescendo as he weaved in and out of the grasping trees. His heart raced, slowed, faltered, then steadied as he drove his body forward to freedom, to kindness, to the distant promise of the woman in white. His arms reached out to embrace her but she vanished with the shattering shout.

‘Prisoner 4538!’ The rattle of keys in the heavy steel door battered his eardrums like sharp shards of thunder as he buried his head under the single wool blanket that covered his body and the thin grey tunic that covered that.

‘Stand up, Prisoner 4538!’  A boot kicked him hard and he collapsed onto the concrete floor.

‘Please, leave me alone. Please…’

The two men standing over him stared down like two schoolboys planning to the tear the wings off a fly, the vicious smiles, the eager eyes.

‘Stand up!’

Strong arms reached down and pulled him up. The floor was cold. His feet were bare.

‘Who are you? Why won’t you tell me?’

In answer they shoved him in the back, down a long grey corridor, half-stumbling, half running, trying to keep ahead of the men who tormented him, his eyes blinded by the arc lights that lit the way.

The three stopped at a closed door with the single word “Interrogations” stencilled in black on the grey paint. One of the men knocked. He heard a muffled but sharp voice. The man who knocked reached for the doorknob, turned it, opened the door wide.  The second guard, hustled him into the room. He was shoved forward and made to stand before a man, in a dark grey suit, white shirt and black tie, seated at a desk. The man received the salute of the two guards with a nod of his head. He then sat in silence as he observed the prisoner.

He waved his hand at a single wooden chair placed in front of the desk. The guards pressed the prisoner’s shoulders, forcing him down onto the chair, then took several steps back and stood with legs apart, arms behind their backs.

The prisoner tried to sit upright in the chair but the seat was oiled, slippery and he kept slipping down to the floor. He tried to grip the armrests but they were oiled too. He gave up and rested in a state of imbalance while the man across from him continued to sit in silence, watching him squirm.

‘Do you know why you are here, 4538?’

The prisoner did not answer, but looked around the room that was bare except for the desk and two chairs. He replied, ‘Why don’t you tell me?’

‘To confess. That is all. Are you ready to confess?”

“I’ve done nothing. How can I confess?”

‘I’m sure you can think of something. Everyone is guilty of something.’

‘I’ve lived my life, that’s all.’

‘A good life?’ The interrogator leaned forward. ‘What do you say?’

‘I worked, I loved, I survived, what am I supposed to say? Who are you?’

‘You. I’m your mirror. Are you afraid to look?’

‘You’re talking in riddles.’

He slipped in his chair again, tried to sit back up, but only slipped further down. ‘I want to go home.’

‘You can’t go home until you confess. The new order requires it. Everyone must confess. Everyone has to begin again. A clean slate.’

‘You sound like a priest.’

‘No, not a priest, you’re friend. I don’t offer salvation, only awareness.’

‘I have nothing to confess.’

The man stood up from the desk and motioned the guards to step back. He walked up to the prisoner, stood behind him. Then he leaned down. He whispered in his ear. ‘Do you want to know where you are? Can’t you guess?’

Prisoner 4538 moved his head away from the voice but it followed him,

‘Can’t you guess?’

‘No.’

The interrogator moved away from the prisoner, ‘Take him away, he is useless until he knows where he is. Take him back to his dream.’

The guards pulled Prisoner 4538 roughly to his feet and dragged him back to his cell. The hallway seemed to stretch out in front of them forever, the end lost beyond the vanishing point, beyond the endless doors on either side until they came to the door with his number on it, already opened.

He was thrown back onto the floor of the cell beside his collapsed cot. They slammed the door shut. He lay still. He listened to their steps moving away, to the silence of the space around him. He lifted his head, looked around. The cell was bare except for the single weak bulb that cast macabre shadows on the walls, the the pile of sticks that was his bed, a bucket in one corner. He lay back on the floor, began to sob, feeling desperate, afraid. But after the tears had washed his eyes, he lay quiet, began to drift, and saw again the woman in white with open arms waiting for him, as he ran faster and breathed harder as he ran, ever on, away from the shouts, the baying dogs, ever on to the pure light in front of him. He was almost there. He knew he could do it. He ran and ran and ran as hard as he could until he disappeared into the nights dark womb and the shouts became distant and confused.

The doctor put his pipe to his lips and slowly inhaled, then blew out a ring of blue smoke. He walked over to the window as he thought about the question. The leaves on the trees on the hospital grounds were turning; the reds and golds glittered in the autumn sun. The flowers still blossomed, squirrels still played in the branches, nurses walked patients along the paths, enjoying the warm golden light. The doctor paused as he reflected on what he was about to say. The he turned to the group seated in his office, the senior resident, the junior, the psychiatric nurse, all looking at him, waiting for him to speak.

‘You asked my opinion about this patient. I have examined him a number of times. It is clear he has suffered a psychotic break.

‘Patient 4538 is still suffering the delusion that he is a prisoner here. His delusion even extends to dreaming that he is escaping from the prison but then wakes up to be taken for interrogation. He thinks his dream is reality. But without any identity it is going to be difficult to treat him. We have no history.’

The junior nodded. ‘Just found by the police a few days ago wandering the streets, ‘looking for the good life”, they said. Totally disoriented. Said he had to keep running until he found it.’

The doctor looked out the window for a few moments as he drew on his pipe then, as he sat down in his leather chair, replied, ‘a sad case, thinking he can find the good life by running after it,

escaping everything, by refusing to examine himself. His delusion could be permanent. It exists in many people, perhaps most, but I have never seen anyone who has broken with reality like him. He will never recover I fear, unless we can find out who he is.’ He took another puff on his pipe as the others looked on in quiet agreement.

The telephone on his desk buzzed. The doctor reached calmly for the receiver, put it to his ear. “Yes?” There was a pause as he listened. Then his mouth opened. His pipe dropped from his hand.  His back stiffened.  He listened further, then said ‘all right, you’d better call the police.’

He put the receiver back. For long seconds he said nothing, then turned to the others and said, ‘He’s gone. The door to his room was locked but he’s gone. Just disappeared. Like he never existed. Well, I’ll be damned.’

And, as the doctor sat back in wonderment, Prisoner 4538 kept running, stumbling, falling, towards the gentle arms of the lady in white.