The House Was Old

Despair photo96022541

The house was old on top the hill

The trees all dead and withered,

As if some plague had entered there,

And death and demons gathered,

Yet something lured me through its door,

A longing, deep in me, for shadows,

As if my mind had come unhinged,

Shot through with poisoned arrows,

For around me spun a wicked world,

Where looming doom now hovered,

So on I moved through rooms decayed,

And saw in each a grotesque vision, 

Of such cruel, and vile and fiendish things,

Of madmen sprouting donkey ears, 

All braying in derision,

That my mind became untethered,

Until in one I saw a pale blue light,

That hung, in mid-air, somehow, humming,

And from it heard a distant song, now forgot,

That urged me on with constant thrumming,

To turn about and trace the path,

That wound back down that hill,

To find the land where beauty reigned,

And love, unknown except in legend, 

That, perhaps, could make us happy, 

But with each slow descending step,

There appeared new horrors – never-ending –

Until I reached a vast and empty plain,

A river through it wending,

And close nearby a single tree,

So old and gnarled and twisted,

Deformed it seemed, demented,

On which there hung, on rotting bough,

A silvered mirror, framed in gold,

In which the future was reflected,

Or so claimed an ancient crone, 

Who ancient stars collected,

In her temple of the damned,

But on looking in that glass so old,

I startled, shrieked, I moaned and shuddered,

For there, with gaping eyes I saw, too hideous to describe,

Too terrible to see,

That apelike thing they call mankind, leering back at me. 


The Closet


There it hangs all limp and old,

In the closet dust and mould,

Was this the one I wore that night

She kissed me soft and held me tight?

Or did I wear the blue suit then,

My mind confuses who and when,

And there, the tie another gave me,

Who loved me sure, or was it maybe.

Funny that, the thoughts that pass, 

Like floating seeds among the grass,

Which ride the wind and journey through,

Blessed by sun and morning dew,

And there the coat I wore at twenty,

When life was young and hopes were plenty,

That night I longed for her and waited,

Now ragged, threadbare, musty, faded,

Aye, bad things happened, good ones too,

But best not think too much or stew,

Let’s close the door on older times,

I hear the wind arouse the chimes,

Let’s sing and dance to newer rhymes.  

A New Year’s Litany


This is for those who struggle through life

Alone, without help, so reach for the knife,

Who can’t take the troubles, the pain and the strife,

This is for those born poor without hope

Fed images on screens of Prince Harry and soap,

Stopped before starting, so reach out for dope,

For the underpaid workers told to suffer with less,

By the men who enslaved them and created the mess,

And their fatuous wives, in their glittering dress,

For those driven mad by the twelve hour day,

Locked in a warehouse so dark they all pray

To win the state lotto, they can’t live on their pay,

For those in the office, bored out of their mind,

For the ignorant led by the morally blind,

And the many who know not how to be kind,

For those forced to vote for capitals’ democracies

Those vice-ridden totalitarian hypocrisies,

Whose voice is ignored, unless on their knees,

For the victim of charlatans, tricksters and whores,

Who get what they ask for when they open the doors,

And in march the black shirts with their new nazi laws,

For the ones who resist, and are beaten or shot,

Or made to look fools, or just left to rot,

Thinking they’re heard, but simply they’re not,

For those who still believe that all will be well,

When we’ve already made this planet a hell,

That sound you hear is the toll of the bell.

A Greeting From Existence


Stars glittered in the clear night sky while on my back I lay,

Gazing into infinity, enfolded in eternity, wondering of my way,

And wondered why I wondered, and why I could not say

Or speak those silent thoughts for which no words are fit,

And were they thoughts at all when they never could be writ,

Nor understood by anyone, like scrolls in an ancient pit,

Those mysteries of unknown minds, lost in buried time,

We’re anonymous in multitude, our voices locked in mime,

While priests tell us day and night our nature is a crime,

And force us with morality to lose our peace of mind,

When all we need is do no harm and to others just be kind,

Which martyrs walking stony paths would do well to keep in mind,

But then my thoughts were broken when a meteor arced across the sky,

A sudden flash and blaze of light was born and then did fade and die,

A greeting from Existence – a brightly waved good-bye.

Incident At Sakina

                 (An Arusha Story)

arusha city pic1

 I’m deep in the music, lost in the sound,

 foot beating the time, fingers playing the strings,

 that sing their soft song of f sharp to d,

 the notes in between, that lingering e.

 then came a shriek, then the screams, a quick rush of feet, 

 beneath the blue sky, through the green of the trees, 

 then a silence as loud as a lioness’ roar,

 that froze my fingers right on the edge, 

 heart pounding, just listening, to shouts, to loud moans ,

 the running of feet, the noise of a crowd,

 then me running too, from door to the gate,

 to that scatter of rags that lay on the road,

 where we gathered in awe of the presence of  death;

‘mangoes, that’s what she sold,’ 

‘she was so old, and so poor’

‘the car came haraka,’

‘he came at her fast, and disappeared quick’, 

‘thrown high in the air.

 ‘like a leaf on the wind,”

“pole sana, so sorry’

“sikitika,”so sad,’

“vipi, dada? Unasaema?”

‘what’s up sister, you say what’

“ay mbali sana,, ay very bad.’

‘hey what’s up with her brother?’

 “just dead, man, ala, this old Maasai,

 ‘twende, let’s go, look, forget it my brother,

 ‘life is too short and we gotta go,”

  so they left, the crying, the wailing, 

  the blood  pooled at our feet

  as women pushed past me, then the police,

  all dressed in white and very polite,

  then we all turned away, to carry on life,

  without gods, a purpose, 

  to face out own fate.

An Angry Wind Is Coming

( A warning from the grave)


An angry wind whips the trees, tears the leaves,

Claws them down, throws them up,

Then beats them through the air-Enraged,

So angry mobs like storms will come,

Upon the ones who reign ,

Who love, like flies, decay and death-

We know them from their stench,

The miseries they have made-

But what will be, this angry mob,

Of the left, or of the right,

A million Che Guevara’s or Mussolini’s spawn,

Bred in beds of ignorance and lousy with their hate,

Bringing worse upon us still, and with an iron fist?

The storm has come upon us, there’s thunder in the air,

Zola, now is never read, Neruda is reviled,

Saramago showed the Blindness, Sinclair, the Jungle of their kind,

Capital is forgotten and all the truth therein,

Where are they our heroes, when now we need them more?

Mac The Knife is back in power and works in dark of night,

And where are you my comrades, are you on the barricades,

Or wrapped in sad, self-pity, in doubt of what you are,

Caring more for you and yours, and less for us and ours?

An angry wind is coming, so get your selves prepared,

Be warned, and act, my comrades, or end up on your knees.


October Is Upon Us


October is upon us and soon November’s dreary days,

As if the days of June were dreams, its promises a haze,

The leaves descend and swirl about, in yellow, orange, red,

While clouds hang low in moody skies, and old folk seek their bed,

A voice calls out and asks for tea, as day leads into night,

Footsteps pass the windowsill, of children, out of sight,

Calling up old memories, of that day you held my hand,

Walking on the riverbank, or listening to the band,

That played their weekly concert, and made us all so smile,

We felt the urge to dance again, and did so, for a while,

Made pledges we could never keep, no matter how we tried,

For other clouds soon gathered and I crossed the ocean wide,

Our letters stopped, our lives went on, as if we’d never been,

And now, I hear this winter, will be one we’ve never seen.

In Winter, A Riff On Sappho

(An improvisation on the only known fragment of a poem by Sappho, “In Winter,…)


If not winter, then can summer be,

The welcoming sun, the greening tree,

The playful stream, skipping to sea,

If not death, where then is life,

The joys, the sorrows, the saddening strife,

Words of wisdom that cut like a knife,

If not you, then, what then am I,

But a question, a query, a what or a why,

Everyone’s stranger, just passing by.

The Last Conversation

The Last Visit-image

A Short Play

Two Characters: A Man, A Woman

The action takes place on a simply furnished stage, two chairs, a table on which is a lamp, two glasses and a bottle of wine, a coat rack. There is a door, stage right.

The light comes up, an old man slowly enters from the door stage right, wearing a long coat which he just as slowly takes off and hangs on the coatrack, then sits down in a chair contemplating the room he has entered and his life in it. He looks for a moment puzzled and sad, but picks up a book, then changes his mind, pours some wine into a glass, changes his mind again, picks up the book and begins to read, but, as the lights dim, he starts to nod off.

A beat-there is a knock at the door, a pause, the lights come up, the door opens. A woman enters, who hesitates, as she looks at him,

Woman, ‘I was here earlier, you weren’t, so I left.’

Man, (seeming to wake slowly, then rising from his chair and indicating with his arm to the chair opposite him) ‘Please, sit with me. I was hoping to avoid you, but half expecting you, so, since you’re here, you might as well be comfortable.’

Woman,  ‘Always the gentleman. Thank you.’ (she hangs her coat on the rack, then sits) ‘But don’t you think you should avoid these vain hopes of yours?’

Man,  ‘What are we without hope?’ “Would you like some wine?”

Woman, “What are you with it? And Yes, why not.”

Man, (As he pours her a glass.) ‘Do you always ask a question to a question? Are you Irish or perhaps Jewish.’

Woman,  “(Accepting the glass) Very intelligent people have inquiring minds, but I can’t be categorised in those terms.’ 

Man, ‘Ah, so I’m not intelligent?’

Woman,  ‘Let’s say you prefer not to face certain facts.’

Man, ‘My problem is I know too many facts. I’ve had a lifetime of facts. What would you know? In fact I don’t even know why you’re here and not somewhere else, so what do you have to say to that fact?’

Woman, ‘You know perfectly why I’m here. And what’s more you like me being here.’

Man, ‘You occupy my thoughts too much. I wish you would just go away. All my life I avoided you, but then there you are, at my door, walking in, like we have a relationship or something, and what do I do but let you walk right in. Now it’s every day I start to doze and there you are. When will it end?’

Woman, ‘Soon. But you find me charming, attractive, with an intelligence needed to balance you’re, oh, what to say, your limited appreciation of things.’

Man, ‘You have a high opinion of your attractions. I’m only limited by my experience of life.

Woman,  ‘Like everyone, you are an accumulation of struggles, victories and disappointments experienced in a sea of boredom.

Man, “I’d like to think my life was more than just that. 

Woman, (laughing) ‘Everyone likes to think that. All right, But am I wrong? You decided to live this life when you could have ended it. Has it really been worth the price you paid to live it out?’

Man, ‘I wonder, sometimes.  But life is to live’.

Woman, ‘Yes, and so is what comes next. Are you ready for it?’

Man, “Ready as the next man,  I guess.  But I read a curious thing in the news today that yesterday, – that no one in the world died yesterday- an astonishing thing. What can account for that? There was a headline  “Death took a holiday” or something.   Has dying outlived its usefulness?’

Woman, ‘At least you have still a sense of humour. I can be distracted, or just maybe I just took a break, or fell in love.’

Man, (laughing) ‘So you have feelings?  Are lonely? How can that be? And, frankly, I never thought of Death as a woman.

Woman, ‘Women give birth so it would make sense that a woman also brings death. Anyway we are talking of your perception. But is it reality?  

Man, ‘I never thought of Death as person, as a persona of either sex. But your logic is sound. I’ll give you that; but death falling in love, taking a break? 

Woman, ‘Why not?  

Man, ‘So Wilde was right, we always kill the thing we love?”

Woman,  ‘Well, isn’t that the teaching of most religions, that God is love, God loves what it creates, and so created us, and then destroys the life it created? 

Man “Some say, love your fate, love your life.’ 

Woman, “Can you love yours?’

Man, “We have to, or end up drowning in self-pity and depression, believe me, I know. But I woke up. Better to enjoy the moment as they say.”

Woman, “I don’t think you would like living in the moment if you were being tortured on the rack, That’s always been a problem with that idea. But you are enjoying the moment with me?”

Man, “I admit it. And you with me?”

Woman,  ‘Of course, there can’t be death without life, can there? It’s just as important to me as to you. I’ve had many conversations like this, an infinite number it seems, but your conversation attracted me more than most. You touched me in some way, I tried not to let that happen, but yesterday I decided to change the routine and see what happens.”

Man, ‘So, you? Are? 

Woman, “You seem to be drifting from reality again. You’ve known it since I came here, why pretend any longer?’

Man, “I don’t take reality very well, But why then did you change your routine yesterday.

Woman, “I don’t know. Boredom perhaps”

Man, “You get bored?”

Woman, “Wouldn’t you, you have no idea what it’s like …  An eternity of the same thing. 

Man, “That’s what’s wrong with immortality. No relief from life.’

Woman, ‘For you, yes, but I’m in a different place. For me, my relief comes from occasionally stepping into life.”

Man, “Like now?

Woman, “Why not?

Man, ‘The question to a question again.

Woman, “All right, yes, this is one of those interludes for me, a temporary shedding of my immortality, of the eternity of my existence, of being everywhere, just to experience a moment of time with someone who appreciates the moment as only those who must die can. It’s not quite the same.’

Man, “So you’re slumming?”

Woman, “That’s a bit crude to say. Sharing is a better way of putting it.’

Man, “And how long can you stay in this state? With me?

Woman, “Not much longer. 

Man, “Then the dying will resume?”

Woman, “It has too, and it’s not just about you or other people, all dying is suspended for the present, no animal or bird, or bacterium, died yesterday or today, so far.  This will have consequences I’ll have to deal with later. “

Man, “Or God”

Woman,  “Forget those illusions. I am just a part of nature as you are as everything is, there are no gods, everything has a cause, nothing comes from nothing and those who are fooled by these illusions deny causality and claim things can be created out of nothing, like some magic trick. No, my task is just an outcome of they way things are and have always been.’

Man, ‘Then how are you able to suspend deaths for a time?”

Woman, “Death has its own rhythm, I just syncopated it a little, so we could talk, so I could experience something else for a change. But all good things come to an end, don’t you know?”

Man, ‘Including this conversation.”

Woman, ‘This conversation will seem to you to continue forever, like life itself. You will never know an end to it. You will always exist so long as you exist-and when you don’t, you won’t. Why do I have to tell you what is obvious to everyone?’

Man, ‘But you’re about the only friend I have left now. When I go will I still exist?

Woman, “If someone remembers you.  But does it really matter? “

Man, “To me it does.”

Woman, “Is there anyone to remember you-to make you immortal?”

Man, a beat, “it seems you will be the only one.”

Woman, “And how do you feel about that, that I am the only one to really understand you, to know you and so remember you.”

Man, “I don’t know what to think.  I just feel so suddenly tired. I think you’ll have to excuse me….

(there is long silence as the Man drinks some wine then looks down at the ground as if thinking deeply. As she watches him, he begins to drop his head in drowsiness. As he does she leans over and touches his arm and brushes her hand over his face)

Woman, “You have no need to think now, my friend.  My work begins again.  So sleep, just sleep. Sleep, sleep, the never ending sleep.” 

(With that, as the lights dim, she rises from her chair while watching his head fall to his chest, slowly puts on her coat, opens the door and leaves with one last look at the Man.  The door closes, the lights go almost black, then rise again, as the glass falls from his hand, his hand falls to the floor, his breathing stops-and he is no more.)

                                               The End