The House Was Old

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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. 

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The Closet

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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

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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

Leonid_Meteor

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)

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 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)

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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

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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,…)

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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.

Where Last We Met

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Where last we met was a shallowing stream,

And over it’s course leaned a wise oak tree,

And all seemed well, as though in a dream,

Yet there, again, we never would be.

Passers-by now feel a deep sombre mood,

As though a sad spectre, lonely, there stands,

Longing for her, the one he once wooed

With talk of the seas, and far travelled lands.

Some hear a whisper, as if called out to stop,

Others see phantasms floating through leaves,

From which drip tears, drop after drop,

As if Nature for Love and lovers bereaves;

Some see a shadow man rising to reach for the hand,

Of the woman who waits, as if unaware,

Haunted and haunting in a dark ghostly land,

Few stay there for long, for few wish to dare.

But I see a place, now barren, decayed, 

Of a life torn apart, it now seems to me,

And though all seemed well, as once in a dream,

It is where, again, we never can be.