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That's the Way It Is


Freedom

A moment of compassion
led John, at life’s last stage,
to take his little bluebird
out of his little cage.

And at the open window
he held him in his hand,
‘For many years you’ve served me,
a singer and a friend.

‘But I have been too selfish
and can no longer bear
to see you caged,’ he whispered
and threw him in the air.

The bluebird hit the pavement,
splashing some passers-by;
caged for so long, he couldn’t
remember how to fly.


Two Options

Past generations of opposing sides
fought, with the losers left in cells and graves,
and where their animosity abides
the offspring of the masters and their slaves
look at the options that today provides.

One option is to rest, propose a toast
and learn from History; the other is
to skirmish with descendents of the host
who wronged their ancestors. And we know this:
the second option is preferred by most.


Taking Care of the Future

Injustice is a curse, and few we know are worse:
but holding the descendants responsible, I trust, is
a new injustuce, and we’ve seen too many a hearse
because some people are unjust in seeking justice.

No dead man ever rose, nor does a death dry tears:
to take to violence and, in order to increase it,
revenge what someone’s father has done to theirs appears
to make no sense at all, and those with sense will cease it.

Where sons refuse to fight, no feud can ever last:
until the wound has healed, the noticeable suture
reminds us that revenge is taking care of the past
and reconciliation is taking care of the future.


The Enemy Within

An intellectual stronghold,
the fortress of the mind
amidst the realm of surprises
is one of a lot of its kind.

Around it the moat of detachment
protects it from obvious foes
who try to invade and take over,
and whom each inhabitant knows.

Once the army issued a warning
and told the world and his wife
Diaforetikés were approaching
to threaten their way of life.

'We've already slaughtered thousands
who tried to escape from a land
we destroyed, but there's thousands of others
coming here if we don't take a stand!

'And the worst is that some are already
amongst you today, unbeknown
to the rest of you, secretly plotting
to have your world overthrown.'

The scared inhabitants panicked,
even though they had never seen
Diaforetikés, but they sounded
quite dangerous, ruthless and mean.

They agreed to be tightly protected
by the army who swiftly moved in
and now rules by emergency council
while their troops make a hell of a din.

From their drinks they refuse to pay for
to the women whose love they can't gain,
the soldiers take what they fancy,
and nobody dares to complain.

On the streets they patrol they harass us,
chase away every beggar and waif,
and ten soldiers in every bedroom
are keeping the occupants safe.

Every citizen having a quarrel
with another can easily be
sent to gaol if accused of being
a true Diaforetikí.

Such our way of life is protected,
though it be just a little austere,
and the drawbridge of reason is closing
behind the army of fear.


Salesman Fear

Fear is a salesman with no competition:
in order to create a market, he
needs to create intolerance, suspicion
and boastful ignorance for all to see.

For starters he will warn you of the dangers
of the unknown and different creeping in
and then point out your neighbours are but strangers,
secretly plotting to destroy your kin.

As soon as he has scared you into hiring
his services after your peace has popped,
he will convince your neighbours you’re conspiring
against them and demand you must be stopped.

He’ll kindle tensions while assisting neither
of the two parties and, exactly like
a deity, await the day when either
side will be launching the preemptive strike.

You’ll turn to him to seek revenge, quite willing
to give him all you have so he’ll wipe out
all of your hated enemies, fulfilling
your wish for peace under his watchful clout.

Just like your adversaries, he’ll direct you
to hand him over all your funds and, too,
your rights and freedom so he may protect you
from those whom he, in turn, protects from you.

He stands above the ashes in elation,
a Machiavellian salesman filled with glee,
the only one to gain from his creation:
a feud he’ll fuel for all eternity.


Space Programme

When the space explorers were gathered
to discuss the commanders’ plan
for the aeon ahead, one requested
to visit a planet again
he had passed on a previous mission
through a massive galaxy;
‘I think we should be exploring
its potentiality.’

The general smiled. ‘And what planet
is this? Are there civilised forms
of life?’ - ‘I think there’s potential,
albeit not yet by our norms;
you know that little blue planet
my fellow astronauts scoff
and where the dominant species
is killing each other off.’

‘You would try to contact an anthill
to figure out how it reacts;
we look for intelligent species
to exchange ideas and facts.
We’re not in the habit of teaching
barbarians while we explore;
besides, by the time you would get there
they won’t be around any more.’


Paradise

We once lived in a land of plenty,
providing fruit from many a tree,
sufficient game to feed our people
and lots of shellfish from the sea.

Then white men came and took our country
as if they were this planet’s heirs,
enforced their so-called civilisation
and claimed the land and sea were theirs.

Now fruit and game are in locations
they labelled ‘private property’,
and we are not allowed to harvest
mussels and oysters from the sea.

Now we’ve to earn Earth’s produce working
upon the land they took away;
meanwhile, to make ends meet, our children
must labour in the mines all day.

And if we dare demand our country
or human rights, our claims are not
considered, but we are quite clearly
told to appreciate our lot:

‘You ought to be a bit more grateful,
for you were savages, you see,
but we have brought you full employment
and a robust economy!’


The Windigo Society

The old ones told us of the Windigo,
a fiend that feeds and thrives on human flesh,
and every meal would make the creature grow,
so, getting hungry, it would start afresh.

The more it eats, the more it grows in height;
the more it grows, the hungrier it gets,
so the ungentle giant’s appetite
sends it on killing sprees with no regrets.

When in the end the Windigo destroyed
all human life around it, it is doomed
to starve amidst the vast and barren void
that it created when it last consumed.

Is it not scary how in days of yore
a storytelling Cree’s perceptive mind
foresaw Capitalism long before
the beast emerged to terminate mankind?


Bound

Sixteen tons and forty acres
are the means to keep us slaves
in our place and make us follow
from our cradles to our graves.

We have learned to fear our owners,
serving them as many years
as the universe has layers
with our labour and our tears.

The arcana of us minors
is to numb our angry souls,
and we find our heart’s ambitions
emptied out like Aubrey holes.

Told that with hard work and effort
we may, too, be masters, we
spend our lives to feed our owners
and support their gluttony.

Crammed under our masters’ table
we compete for every crumb:
sixteen tons and forty acres
make the world go round for some.

Chanting mantras as instructed,
we all leave our dreams unvoiced;
sixteen tons and forty acres
keep the scales unequipoised.


Basic Philosophy

Why is the world so crooked?
A horn of plenty once,
it nursed, but greed since took it
and made mankind a dunce.

And soon the fear of others
was planted in our brains;
now paranoia smothers
humanity’s remains.

While its perpetual coffers
supply for me and you,
most of what nature offers
is taken by a few.

And we just let them, fighting
their wars on states and men,
knowing we can’t be righting
most of these wrongs again.

And yet there is potential
for happiness for all
by following essential
advice as in the call,

‘Don’t kill or hurt your brother
or made-up enemies,
and don’t deprive another
of bare necessities.’

How long will evolution
withhold through fear that blinds
so simple a solution
from simple human minds?


The Couched Guardians of the Status Quo

But that the dread of [...]
the undiscovered country from whose bourn
no traveller returns, puzzles the will
and makes us rather bear those ills we have
than fly to others that we know not of.
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet

You say the world we live in needs some changes
for being unsustainable and rife
with pure injustice, but who rearranges
the world will also rearrange our life.
You claim there always is a better option,
a fairer system waiting in the wing,
but we can’t fathom what the rash adoption
of an unproved philosophy may bring.

There’s nothing we can do about the present
to ease our lot, and though the status quo
admittedly is but the most unpleasant
and costliest system, it’s the one we know.
It’s true that others suffer from unkinder
yokes than we do, but we can not reverse
their fate which serves us as a stern reminder
that life for us could be a whole lot worse.

We know that you mean well, and while we greatly
appreciate the heroes of the past
who fought to overcome the wrongs innately
incorporated in their culture, classed
as ineluctability, we surely
oppose attempts to change reality
at present, and to do so prematurely;
the world’s not perfect, it’ll never be.

Although you’re right and all injustice grieves us,
there’s things that never will be right, we know;
therefore, unless a miracle relieves us,
we’ll passively protect the status quo.


The Decision

When Fear went to the ballots,
he trusted voices that
blamed others, so he voted
for the hateful candidate.

Defending his decision,
he blustered, ‘To be free,
we must destroy the people
who cause our misery!’

When Hope went to the ballots,
he contemplated that
things might improve and voted
for the sanguine candidate.

And with an optimistic
smile he explained his stance,
‘Though things may not get better,
at least there is a chance.’


The Sonnet of the Breaking Point

‘They can’t afford water? Let them drink wine!’

Since time began, a self-declared elite
has claimed their rank entitles them to be
sustained by common people whom they treat
as mere providers for their luxury.

They, though they leave the commoners bled dry,
keep claiming more and more as time goes on,
convinced there is a limitless supply
of blood to build their monuments upon.

Yet there’s a breaking point as we have seen,
such as in France in 1789
and Russia in October ’17,
and now in Western countries that decline.

But what the masses deem the remedy
failed Germany in 1933.


Screamtime

When ignorance ascended,
the truth went deaf and dumb;
the days of silence are over,
the time to scream has come!

With our minds perpetually battered
and our brains perpetually numb,
the days of silence are over,
the time to scream has come!

The unluckiest fight for survival
while the happiest still are glum;
the days of silence are over,
the time to scream has come!

And ignorance now leads the masses
which once again march to her drum;
the days of silence are over,
the time to scream has come!

Mankind has elected a nightmare
that vowed to fulfil their dream.
There’s no time left now for silence;
the time has come to scream!


The Powerless Employers

We are employers – every now and then
we hire new employees who have a laugh:
we, other than your regular employer,
can’t manage neither discipline our staff.

During the interview they tell us how
they will improve and boost our company,
but once they have the job, give us the finger,
even deciding their own salary.

They sell our assets, plunder our accounts,
they fill their pockets to the brim, pursue
their own agendas, and they leave us bankrupt,
because they know there’s nothing we can do.

They still have the audacity to tell us
they work for us while everybody sees
that we, the paralysed electorate,
are powerless against our employees.


The Zombie Mill

The bokors of this world drug other mortals
into a stupor and control their will
to make them readily queue at the portals
and operate their nocent zombie mill.

They are rewarded with their daily soma
after they worked the treadwheel nine to five,
the zombie powder that prolongs their coma
while causing them to think that they’re alive.

They ridicule the notion they’re unliving
and boast about their productivity;
as long as their possessors keep on giving
them soma, they insist, their souls are free.

And as the zombies footslog to their fife
the bokors in their fortress live the life.


Qualifications

Of course you need a qualification
to be a barber and take care
of whitewalls and of pompadours,
because we trust you with our hair.

Of course you need a qualification
as clerk of a bank where people stash
their money and regard it safe,
because we trust you with our cash.

But you don't need a qualification
to be a parent or MP,
because you only rule our lives -
just how demanding could that be?


Erich Kästner and the Gordian Knot

When Alexander the supposedly
Great conquered Gordium (I guess a lot
of you learned this in school), he was approached
and challenged to untie the Gordian Knot.

Thought to be ununtiable, this work
of art, this masterpiece made out of cord
that’d lasted for two thousand years or more,
was sliced by Alexander with his sword.

His soldiers cheered and praised their fervent king’s
intelligence and ingenuity,
but the young conqueror was lucky that
my mother didn’t see his victory.

If I, no less original and smart
than Alexander, ever would have tried
to cut the string of a tied box, she would
have told me off, extinguishing my pride.

And if she’d been in Gordium, no way
would she have praised or even feared the king,
‘Alex, one does not cut through knots,’ she would
have told him. ‘There is always use for string.’

And in a world still torn by many a sword
the Alexandrian solution is,
in fact, the problem; thus we should express
ourselves in other ways than copying his.

The Macedonian king should not have cut
the knot a gifted artist did create;
and when he did, his men should not have cheered;
and when they did, he shouldn’t have felt great.

(based on Erich Kästner’s ‘Der gordische Knoten’)


Walking on Walls

Do you remember when as children
we had to climb each wall
we saw to train our sense of balance
and to feel ten feet tall?

Defying any separation
of promenade and sea,
of field or garden and the footpath,
we felt aloft and free.

At first we held dad’s hand for safety
but soon let go and, prone
to insecurities, we proudly
succeeded on our own.

Today we do not climb partitions
the way we did before,
we don’t admire the world beneath us
and walk on walls no more.


The Wolf

‘The wolf is beautiful!’ the cavegirl shouted.
‘Could we not catch and tame him for
our family?’ – Her father softly answered,
‘Then he would be a wolf no more.’


Conclusions

The farmer sowed his field one sunny day.
The crows said, 'Look, he feeds us!' and swooped down.
The farmer pulled his gun, and with a frown
he shot the crows and carried them away.

'He's trapped us,' croaked the chief. 'Go out and see
whether he eats them or just wants their hide.'
Two fledglings left, returned and said, 'They died
to fill a hole behind the chestnut tree.'

'That is disgraceful,' said the chief. 'He killed
our friends to fill a hole? Let's gather wood
and leaves and twigs, and soon enough we should
finish his task and have the hollow filled.'

And so the hole was covered to the brim.
The chief announced, 'The farmer won't require
another crow. Eat to your heart's desire;
there's no more cause to be afraid of him!'

A crow swooped down and pecked a grain before
the farmer's very eyes. He looked the same
way that he looked before and took his aim
and shot her while the others watched in awe.

And as the farmer carried off the crow,
the chief just gulped and uttered, 'Here's the thing -
there's nothing wrong with deductive reasoning,
but it appears there's factors we don't know.'

- - - - - - -

Behind the tree, the farmer shook his head
as he disposed of her and saw the close
arrangement in the hole, 'God love those crows -
who would have thought they bury their own dead?'


The Lone Wolf and the Feral Donkey

As they were running from the raging
bushfire to reach a safer spot,
a lone wolf and a feral donkey
commenced to talk about their lot.

‘I used to live and hunt with others,’
the wolf remembered with a groan;
‘their herd mentality annoyed me,
and I fare better on my own.’

‘I used to be a beast of burden,’
the donkey brayed, ‘but by and by
I figured out it’s not my purpose
to carry others’ loads and die.’

‘Though we’ve been burnt,’ the wolf concluded,
'our independence stayed intact;
it’s clear we were not meant to live as
pack animals, and that’s a fact.’


Shattered Dreams

We’ve all had shattered dreams, and we may weep
or throw a fit when seeing we can’t win,
pick up the pieces, hurl them in the bin,
or walk away; they’re nothing we would keep.

A little girl once lay in slumber deep;
a pleasant dream was ready to begin,
but, by a terrifying force within,
that dream was shattered while she was asleep.

Before she woke, her relatives debated
what could be done if she should cry and scream;
her optimism was quite underrated.

There was no disappointment and no stream
of tears; instead the little girl created
a great mosaic from her shattered dream.


The Gratifying Art of Adaptation

When your pursuit of happiness,
due to the Fates’ harassment,
ends in a cul de sac, I guess
it’s time for reassessment.

Then be no grouch who just despairs
and lives for life’s resentment
but take a breath, dismiss your cares
and settle for contentment.


The Panther

In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His gaze has tired from passing bars that break up
his mind; he holds no more, a spirit furled.
He thinks there are a thousand bars that make up
his life, and past a thousand bars no world.

Firm paces in a mellow stride tread longly
around the tiniest circle like a mill
wheel, like a dance of pow’r that orbits strongly
the axis of a numbed but mighty will.

Rarely the curtain of his eye is lifted
to let an image enter; like a dart
it travels through tense limbs where it is shifted
and ceases being in the heart.

(Translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Der Panther)


Restlessness

When peace at last approached his weary mind
and the relief for which he so did yearn,
he gazed upon the coast where he would learn
to leave the worries of the past behind.

He’d wandered through the jungle where he’d pined
for peace and safety as his heart did burn,
with unknown dangers lurking at each turn
and challenges no other man could find.

And finally he reached the peaceful shore
with golden sand, blue waters, verdant swards
and nothing to be scared of any more.

His days flowed slowly and they struck no chords,
and in the peace he thought of days of yore,
shouldered his bindle and strolled junglewards.


Patchwork Mankind

Our lives are patches with their own motif,
their different shapes and sizes randomly
assigned and patched together; we don’t see
too far beyond our own and our belief.

Our lives will touch each other for a brief
and unknown time span, and the more that we
appreciate each opportunity,
the less we’ll feel regret within our grief.

Our impossibility to touch the past
and limited ability to touch
the future should not leave ourselves resigned;
we all can make an impact that may last
by our mere effort and contribute such
to the unceasing patchwork of mankind.


The Feral Horses

We haven’t always roamed this free and easy;
our ancestors lived in an era when
they were imprisoned in corrals and stables
and forced to work and carry goods and men.

We have to thank the many daring heroes
who, facing punishment, stayed brave and strong,
who shed their ploughs and who escaped their masters
to get back to the wild where we belong.

That’s how they freed themselves from all those people
who think we’re property to own and tame,
and as we watch them in their cars and houses,
we wonder why they haven’t done the same.


After Noon

The dayflower addressed the setting sun,
‘I shall be dying with your light and would
quite like to understand why when you stood
highest, you never taught me of your run.

‘Since I believed that life had just begun
when it got close to noon, you really should
have notified me that this was as good
as it would get before my day is done.

‘You should have pointed out my peak,’ she said,
‘and you should have encouraged me to quaff
your light upon a path I won’t retread.’

The sun however answered with a laugh,
‘You would have hung your petals and your head
in deep despair and missed the second half.’


The Refugee

We’re not a faceless mass of otherness,
we’re individuals who try to get
through life, just like yourself, but have to fear
that now this very life is under threat.

Bombed by your master and his satellites,
exploited by your corporations, starved
for others’ profit and expelled from what
we called our home, our destiny was carved.

We’re fellow human beings, nothing less,
just take a closer look at us to see
it for yourself, and this is all we ask:
the right to live, and live with dignity.


The Buck that Wouldn’t Stop

‘I see a hunter,’ said one of the does.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll protect you!’ - With a nod
the buck assured them, ‘If he comes this way,
I’ll spear him with my antlers like a clod.’

They heard a shot and looked around; the buck
was gone. A fawn said, ‘Typical! He brags
and then runs off, which demonstrates once more:
the biggest mouth has got the fastest legs!’


The Most Threatened People

Afraid to go to sleep because you may
not see the morning of another drear
day for a rightless group in disarray:
a Semite who was born to live in fear.

Afraid to leave the house once you awoke,
because while walking to your neighbour’s place
you might be shot by any of the folk
considering themselves the master race.

Afraid of open spaces since you could
be maimed or killed, with no one taking heed,
by soldiers or civilians, and they would
not even have to answer for their deed.

Who could be more afraid, I underline,
than Palestinians in Palestine?


Real People

When settlers slaughtered Indians
to take their land and place,
and, with infected blankets,
tried to snuff out their race,
there were some prudent voices
who called for sympathy,
‘These people mustn’t suffer,
why don’t you leave them be?’
But, with a scornful simper,
the others would reply,
‘These aren’t real people,
not such as you and I.’

When Blacks were kept like cattle,
branded and whipped and bred,
their families separated,
lives hanging by a thread,
there were some prudent voices
who called for sympathy,
‘These people mustn’t suffer,
why don’t you set them free?’ -
‘A person’s right to freedom
to them does not apply:
these aren’t real people,
not such as you and I.’

When Jews were persecuted
with pogroms everywhere
for their beliefs and customs
and living in despair,
there were some prudent voices
who called for sympathy,
‘These people mustn’t suffer,
why wouldn’t you agree?’ -
‘They’ll never be like others,
no matter how they try:
these aren’t real people,
not such as you and I.’

When Israel gets rid of
its natives by design,
massacring children, women
and men in Palestine,
there are some prudent voices
who call for sympathy,
‘These people mustn’t suffer,
but you refuse to see!’ -
‘They just defend their country,
that right you can’t deny;
these aren’t real people,
not such as you and I.’

When children are dismembered
in wombs at others’ whims
and writhe in pain and struggle
to hold on to their limbs,
there are some prudent voices
who call for sympathy,
‘These people mustn’t suffer,
will you not heed their plea?’
The answer is most likely
a condescending sigh,
‘These aren’t real people,
not such as you and I.’

There always will be people,
no matter what they do,
who aren’t just as human
as I and maybe you.


Dehumanisation

All men have been created equal,
but some of them aren’t men, you see:
they’re pigs, rats, parasites or filthy
stray dogs: they are the enemy!
To slaughter them is but a service
to humankind, you think, because
they are subhumans, apes and therefore
not covered by our human laws.
Don’t look at pictures of the victims,
for they may open up your eyes;
just chant the chants and join the chorus:
Dehumanise! Dehumanise!

Their race, religion or their mental
or their developmental stage
disqualify from being human
and justify your bitter rage
against their mere existence, claiming
these animals need to be slain
for being dirty, strange, unwanted
or different, in a big campaign!
Don’t look at pictures of the victims,
for they may open up your eyes;
just chant the chants and join the chorus:
Dehumanise! Dehumanise!


Guilt

Atrocities have haunted humans
since time began, as scrolls have shown,
and history describes the leaders
as if they’d acted on their own.

A psycho and the ones infected
with his ideas who set the stage
bear equal guilt to one who murdered
another in a frenzied rage.

Regardless of how many follow
his evil doctrine and his reign,
their terror and abuse could quickly
be stopped by those remaining sane.

The biggest problem aren’t fanatics
nor those believing every lie:
the utmost guilty ones are surely
those who know better and stand by.


Humanity Inspects Earth

Mankind may be redeemed, he pondered,
though baulking at the cost,
but when he saw their children buried,
he knew all hope was lost.

All ignorance and hatred vanish
with knowledge, by and by,
and understanding can be fostered -
but not where children die.

And so he left our hopeless planet,
aware it was too late:
a world in which one child is buried
can never be set straight!


The Mountaineer’s Advice

You have been working all your life
to reach your goal, upset
that all your long-continued strife
went unrewarded yet.

And so you reminisce on how
your plans have gone askew,
‘It’s useless since my goal is now
entirely out of view.’

The mountaineer who notes your plight
will smilingly declare,
‘It’s when the peak is out of sight
I know I’m almost there.’


Regret

Regret is the view of the mountain
we decided we wouldn’t climb,
the aftertaste of the dinner
we chose not to taste at the time.

When the poisonous sting of a bygone
opportunity burns, never say,
‘I wish I had seized that occasion,’
say instead, ‘I know better today.’

Regret fogs the path to the future
of the person it came to beset;
regret is a waste of the present
which soon you may come to regret.


Research

Who else can still recall the days of yore
when for our research, oftentimes in vain,
we’d comb newspaper archives or remain
in reference libraries to find out more?

We’d order costly volumes at the store
which we could not afford for little gain,
just on the off chance that they might contain
the information we were looking for.

But times have changed: today there is no need
to spend much cash and time on books that might
be relevant; we’re fortunate indeed.

We have the Internet all day and night
where information spreads at WiFi speed
and misinformation at the speed of light.


Standing Up and Standing Out

Be not soft with your opinions,
do not whisper what you think;
tell it as it is, don’t water
down the truth, and do not shrink.

Those who change the world for better
are not those who hide their views
in the face of opposition
from the mainstream’s sheepish queues.

Standing up against injustice
may be frowned upon at first;
standing out may be a hazard,
but it’s clearly not the worst.

Even though the herd may shun you
for positions they deplore,
you’ll see others stepping forward
who had been afraid before.

Be courageous, for the misfits
of today who speak their mind
are the heroes of tomorrow
and curators of mankind.


The Thought

Wee-hee! The thought went racing down the axon
and jumped across the spacious recess thanks
to his own impetus, just like a Saxon
who’s on a mission to drive out the Franks.

He landed safely on another neuron,
and down its axon once again he slid,
faster than any rollercoaster you’re on
when you attend a fun fair with your kid.

And with the next synaptic gap approaching,
assisted by a friendly dendrite, he
soon found himself another time encroaching
upon a neuron with tenacity.

And on he raced in one velocious vortex
from cell to cell to cell, all on his own;
his frontal lobe trip in the busy cortex
took him to places he had never known.

Through every obstacle and situation
the thought skilfully managed to persist,
and finally he reached his destination
where he reported, just to be dismissed.


Ant City

Ants in Ant City have to work all day
to serve their greedy queen who idly lounges
within the nest they built for it; their pay
are scraps of all the fodder that it scrounges
off them; each morning they’re assigned to labour,
provided they are faster than their neighbour,
while those without assignment face damnation:
they and their families confront starvation.

The foragers and workers never shirk
but gather food around the town to fatten
the immobile queen who never had to work
but lies and chews in a cocoon of satin
while soldiers are attacking every charger;
sadly, just like a windigo grows larger
by being fed and hungrier by growing,
there’ll be no end to this one’s greed nor slowing.

Other than other ants they reproduce
within their caste; the queen claims those with ardour
may some fine day (this thought is quite abstruse)
turn into queens by working more and harder.
Meanwhile its own descendents, growing bolder,
keep thriving with it and, as they grow older,
take over or, by taking one large plunge from
their nest, found other colonies to sponge from.

A worker once lamented with a frown,
‘Why feed that gorging ogre? It assures us
that once it’s full, the food will trickle down,
but it won’t e’er be full and just up-yours us.
It lives in luxury while we are bleeding:
there must be more to life than work and feeding
the bloody queen,’ he ranted, and thereafter
he heard the city echoing with laughter.


Free World Problem Solving

The starving farmer stumbled past
his master’s overflowing store;
he reached his mansion on his last
legs and kept knocking at the door.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ he
implored the man he came to meet,
‘but once we pay your tribute, we
ourselves have nothing left to eat.’ -
‘I know exactly how you feel,
but times are bad,’ his lord replied,
still chewing on his lavish meal,
‘yet there’s one thing that can be tried.’
So they went down on bended knee
and prayed to the economy.

In a forgotten ghost estate
a man lay on the doorstep of
a barricaded house, a fate
he chose so he’d escape the scoff
of passers-by in town, and when
the owner sauntered past he said,
‘I have no place to live, I can
not wash myself, and now I dread
the freezing winter which I fear
I mayn’t survive.’ The owner frowned
and claimed, ‘I hear you loud and clear,
but there’s a way to keep you sound.’
So they went down on bended knee
and prayed to the economy.

A pale tormented father came
into the doctor’s office. ‘Please,’
he asked and hung his head in shame,
‘my daughter has a rare disease,
and now she is about to die
because we simply can’t afford
the treatment.’ With a heavy sigh
the doctor slowly turned toward
the troubled man. ‘I feel your pain;
wish I could be of help to you
since this must be an awful strain,
but there is one thing we can do.’
So they went down on bended knee
and prayed to the economy.

They did not know on whom the mild
goddess of affluence confers
her gifts; who was not born her child
will never be a child of hers.


Wealth

When money took the world, the roses
turned grey and hung their heads in shame,
the rats all wrinkled their small noses,
and ticks and leeches rose to fame.

The orchards were cut down discreetly,
the corn fields flattened out, the sound
of happy children hushed completely
and all the huts burnt to the ground.

When money took the world, no colour
was left, no palm or buttercup;
the world became a trifle duller,
the wells were poisoned or dried up.

The starved involuntary partakers
were sampling many different tastes
of dirt, and all the while the makers
of money partied in the wastes.


History

History is being written,
and the victor, we behold,
hires a scribe who like a smitten
schoolboy does as he is told.

Thus will future generations
learn how right and good prevailed,
unexposed to the narrations
of antagonists who failed.

Where the victor builds his temple
on the ruins left, forsooth,
on the ground which people trample,
in the rubble lies the truth.


Summoning Spartacus

The makers of imaginary money
hold us in thrall like puppets on a string,
the value of a human life is measured
in Dollars, just like every other thing;
man is an asset, easily replaced:
Where are you, Spartacus? Make haste!

Technology replaces manual labour;
with less to do, some people would be glad
to share - but firms, to maximise their profits,
make us compete for full-time jobs instead,
holding the individual in distaste:
Where are you, Spartacus? Make haste!

The world could easily be fed; today, though,
some thousands will be drawing their last breath,
like every other day, as hunger victims;
and every year, while millions starve to death,
most of this planet’s food is going to waste:
We need you, Spartacus – make haste!


On Being Right

Knowing you’re right when everyone is wrong
can be distressing, and it is all right
to voice your disappointment if your plight
is scorned by those with viewpoints just as strong.

You’ll feel misunderstood, and before long
you will be overwrought as you invite
the others to see reason, but in spite
of all your efforts they won’t sing your song.

Throughout your life you’ve never been a quitter,
and in despair you lecture and petition
all your opponents as they rant and witter.

And even anger’s venial on your mission,
but if you realise you’re growing bitter,
it’s time to reconsider your position.


Advanced Problem Solving

When life keeps throwing boulders in your way
and manages to shock you with unpleasant
surprises every night and every day;

When every obstacle and woe is hurled
at you with barbarous determination,
then ask yourself, ‘Is this the end of the world?’

- If the answer’s No, just carry on,
and if the answer’s Yes, and there is nothing
that you can do about it, carry on.


Discussion

When the doubts have all been doubted
and the reservations shared,
the opinions have been shouted
and the victory declared
by the loudest party, smile
as the popinjay repeats
his supreme position while
the philosopher retreats.


Pride

Right amongst the many people
proud of land and race, you’ll find
those who say the Earth’s their country,
and their people are mankind.


Denial

I’m the dubious helper who fettered
your most harrowing memory,
an umbrella for hopes that were shattered
and a shroud for reality.

I replace the unbearable trauma
with a beautiful moment unhad,
so you’ll never remember the former
which the latter deposed, which seems dead.

But the monster still lurks in the shadows,
and one day when you stroll through the fair
or enjoy the repose of the meadows,
it will jump at your throat from its lair!


Home Is Never Far

‘Home is never far when you’re alive.’ – Maasai Proverb

When you are shipwrecked in the ocean’s foam,
lost in the wilderness that you explore,
stuck in a bog twelve thousand miles from home
or in the jungle where the tigers roar,
just keep in mind, as long as you survive,
that home is never far when you’re alive.

Those who have shuffled off their mortal coil
will never make it back, no matter how
close they may be to their indigenous soil,
therefore be grateful if the Fates allow
you to continue with your passing strive,
for home is never far when you’re alive.


Memories

When the souvenirs have faded
and the pictures on the wall,
when the memory is jaded
from our efforts to recall,
when the others who were present
left and therefore can not share,
we take solace in the pleasant
knowledge we at least were there.


Kannietverstaan

Young Adam saw, approaching Amsterdam,
a mansion and a lady at its gate,
‘Excuse me, ma’am, who owns this fine estate?’
‘Kannietverstaan,’ she answered. - ‘Thank you, ma’am!’

‘How carefree must the life of someone be
who lives in such a mansion,’ Adam thought,
‘and while my own hard efforts come to naught,
this man has more than I will ever see.’

In Amsterdam a stately coach drove by,
and people flanked the road and waved and cheered,
and Adam asked a man with flowing beard,
‘Who’s that?’ - ‘Kannietverstaan,’ was his reply.

‘To be that popular must be superb,
and to be celebrated in the street
by thousands of admirers at one’s feet,’
he thought, ‘who push each other off the kerb!”

A few days later in a street that throbbed
with life, a funeral procession passed.
‘Who died?’ he asked under the flag, half-mast.
‘Kannietverstaan,’ the grieving widow sobbed.

‘So Death spares no one,’ Adam thought. ‘Life’s yarn
is severed when our time has come, and all
his wealth and power which made us look small
can not revive the great Kannietverstaan.’

He kept on thinking, ‘If we worried less
about the others while we are alive,
we’d have a lot more time and verve to strive
to make the best of what we have, I guess.’

If he had known that out where he sojourned
Kan niet verstaan means ‘I can’t understand’
he would not have reflected deeply and
would not have learned the lesson that he learned.

(based on an event in the life of Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine, made famous by the short story of Johann Peter Hebbel)


The Real God

The one who tells you to obey and see
that by his strict commandments you abide,
however cruel or pointless they may be:
that is the god outside.
The one who tells you right from wrong and when
to do the things you feel you have to do,
and to respect and help your fellowmen:
this is the god in you.

The one who makes you kneel so you don’t thrive,
who makes you, by forbidding joy and pride,
feel guilty and unworthy of your life:
that is the god outside.
The one who doesn’t ask to be believed
lets you enjoy your life and, as is due,
be proud of everything that you achieved:
this is the god in you.

The one who tells you that all humans sin
forgives the wrongs of all who let him guide,
no matter how atrocious they have been:
that is the god outside.
The one who loves you tells you earnestly
you reap what you have sowed in all you do
and makes you take responsibility:
this is the god in you.

The one who keeps his people in the dark
commands you to enforce his ways worldwide
and brand your blameless children with his mark:
that is the god outside.
The one who cares encourages to learn
how to find out what’s false and what is true
and to let others do the same in turn:
this is the god in you.

The one who owns you tells you to endure
injustice and torment, and he’d provide
a good life after death for you for sure:
that is the god outside.
The one who frees you teaches you to face
the evils of the real world and pursue
justice to make this world a better place:
this is the god in you.


Worship

They talk to me on bended knee
to make their pains and troubles known
and think that I can set them free,
but I am made of stone.

Begging for help and grace they crawl
before me, praise and whine and moan
and trust I listen to them all,
but I am made of stone.

They’re asking me to heal their sick
or give them guidance in meek tone,
to solve their problems well and quick,
but I am made of stone.

They place, some unintentionally,
their hopes in this one thing alone:
the image that they have of me,
but I am made of stone.

Longing for things that life denies,
they squeeze their fingers to the bone
and tears out of their weary eyes,
but I am made of stone.


Bottleneckism

- The Only True Religion -

Picking fruits and catching locusts,
chewing leaves and eating grains,
the first group of Homo sapiens
wanders through the lush green plains.

Suddenly a ball of lightning
with the fire of thousand suns
strikes the earth and makes it tremble,
and each human being runs.

As the grass and trees start burning,
all seek shelter in despair,
but the power of the impact
throws their bodies through the air.

And Anesidora, rising
from the ashes left behind
has to realise she is the
sole survivor of her kind.

And it is her only comfort
in her world of doom and gloom
that the children whom she carries
are still moving in the womb.

So she seeks a cave to sleep in
in the sun's declining light. -
She's still sleeping in that cavern,
for it's still the selfsame night.

She is dreaming of the future
that will be if she survives;
we're all part of this girl's vision
and that which we deem our lives.

Even though we're just the actors
in a vision, you will find:
all we do is fundamental
to the lot of humankind.

For the outcome of her vision
when she'll ope her eyes at dawn
will decide our fate and whether
she'll give up or carry on.


The Spirit of Freedom

Caught in my trap I found a mouse
with fur smooth, soft and brown,
and by the field next to the house
I slowly let it down.

Then I removed the lid to set
the tiny creature free;
she didn't care because she ate
the bait quite eagerly.

I gently tilted the trap; she fell,
but still she'd fight and strive
to hold on to her prison cell
as if it meant her life.

She finished chocolate, nuts and cheese
while nothing else she'd yield,
and then she turned around with ease
and headed for the field.

As long as we are fed, we can't
leave for the better place,
for freedom is what we demand
after we've stuffed our face.


Pride and Achievement

The Gnomes sat at the campfire
and passed the cup around
while smoking the tobacco
their busy wives had found.

‘We are proud men,’ their chieftain
declared, ‘what makes us great!’
With this he nudged his neighbour,
‘What are you proud of, mate?’

The Gnome who sat beside him
just raised the cup and smiled,
‘I’m proud I slew that badger
who tried to eat your child!’

The Gnomes in turn were drinking
the wine their chief supplied
while listing the achievements
that filled their hearts with pride.

‘I’m proud I put up the barrier
that keeps away the mice,
and proud to see those flourish
who ask for my advice.’

‘I’m proud I build the burrows
in which our folk are safe
and all the dams that shelter
our village from the wave.’

‘I’m proud I pick the tubers
that feed our families
and the nutritious mushrooms
I find amongst the trees.’

‘I’m proud that I am writing
the songs you sing (or try)
and all the hymns and ballads
we’ll be remembered by.’

The last of them had nothing
to add but raised the cup;
his lack of motivation
could never shut him up.

Waving the flag of Gnomia,
he, with his mouth afoam,
screamed with endearing madness,
‘I’m proud to be a Gnome!’


Birds

There are birds that quack or coo or croak
and that teach their little chicks:
Birds don't sing!

There are birds that hide their heads in the sand
and that teach their little chicks:
Birds don't fly!

There are birds that dwell in solitude
and that teach their little chicks:
Birds don't flock!

There are birds that stay throughout the winter
and that teach their little chicks:
Birds don't move!

There are birds that build their nests in trees
and that teach their little chicks:
Birds don't swim!

There are birds that live on fruits and seeds
and that teach their little chicks:
Birds don't kill!

There are birds that sit in lonesome cages
and that teach their little chicks:
Birds aren't free!


A World of Winners

When you are defeated by someone you flout
at, be jealous and curse him, but smile -
for sooner or later he’s bound to find out
that most of us have to lose once in a while.

If you fail, try again, and thereafter once more,
for no man has been born to ride pillions:
remember that you have succeeded before,
for once you have won a race against millions!


Shortened Growth

On the first day, the cell gets moving when
it writes its own genetic recipe,
just like a seed that carries its own plan
and the ingredients to grow and be
Life, not created by external force,
but swiftly growing from its natural source.

And if that cell reaches the uterus,
an embryo will hatch day number five
and settle in the womb where soon he is
fed by placenta to sustain his life -
Life not created by external force,
but swiftly growing from its natural source.

Then, at four weeks, his heart begins to beat,
his ears are formed, his face and mouth and veins;
week number five his limbs, his hands and feet
develop, and he starts to use his brains:
Life, not created by external force,
but swiftly growing from its natural source.

Week number nine - all organs are in place,
he starts to move, and he can make a fist.
He now has a distinguishable face,
a fetus in the amniotic mist:
Life, not created by external force,
but swiftly growing from its natural source.

Week twelve: he starts exploring what is there,
touches his head, the cord with which he dwells,
he sucks and kicks and strokes his downy hair
and sleeps and wakes like everybody else:
Life, not created by external force,
but swiftly growing from its natural source.

And suddenly his rapid heartbeat's hushed
by powers that he can not comprehend,
his skull and every limb are being crushed
by his own mother who decides to end
his life by means of an external force
and scoop his body from its natural source.


The Clock

With every breath he took in life,
a-tic, a-toc, a-tic, a-toc,
he felt a restless beat inside,
the ticking of an inner clock.
When as a child he played alone
or was asleep or having fun,
the clock inside kept telling him,
It must be done, it must be done!

When he grew up to be a man,
a labourer of rising stock,
he felt obliged to pay his dues
and tried to satisfy the clock
by keeping time and working fast,
yet all his efforts were outrun
by that device commanding him,
It must be done, it must be done!

The working rhythm took its toll,
and still the clock kept racing on,
so he decided to ignore
its beat, pretending it was gone;
but when he stayed in bed till noon
or lazed inertly in the sun,
the clock inside reminded him,
It must be done, it must be done!

It ticked and ticked as he grew old,
accompanied his dying breath,
and once again it picked up speed
to mark the moment of his death.
And if there is an afterlife,
continuously the clock will run
inside the spirit of a man
who still won’t know what’s to be done.


Little Friend Behind the Door

Little friend behind the door,
as you strut across the floor,
gently measuring your pace,
I admire your pride and grace.

With a twinkle in your eyes
you take care of midges, flies
and our other tiny friends
whom a weird creator sends.

On your endless legs you sneak
up to them to take a peek;
as your patient playmate waits,
you approach him on all eights.

Furry pal, as soft as wool
and bizarrely beautiful,
you are such a pretty sight,
I could watch you day and night.

When you’re where you shouldn’t be,
on my hand I’ll gingerly
put you where you were before,
little friend behind the door.


Cobweb

See how it glitters in the sun
after all rain and thunder:
a skilful architect has done
his best to shape this wonder.

The cobweb is a dainty thing,
yet tough and indurating,
and creatures travelling on wing
may find it captivating.

Those trapped resist their hidden lord
with rage and apprehension,
tighten the net and pull the cord
to catch their host’s attention.

The struggling insects lose their nerve
and soon accept they’re beaten;
once paralysed, they will observe
themselves being wrapped and eaten.

This is the web of life for you,
and as you fight and languish,
each move just brings you closer to
the eight-legged god of anguish.


The Calling

When Anna Mary had retired
she grasped the opportunity
to spend a lot of time pursuing
her passion for embroidery.

But soon she suffered from arthritis
which made it painful, and she had
to look for something else; her sister
suggested she should paint instead.

Thus Grandma Moses picked up painting
when she was over seventy-eight;
so when you feel you found your calling,
don’t ever think that it’s too late.


Her Ninetieth Birthday

With Minnie’s ninetieth birthday nighing,
the white-haired lady took at last
a closer look at her own humdrum
and dull unenterprising past.

She viewed her albums, thinking back to
all those conventional roles she chose:
strict mother, then a gentle granny,
now a great-grandmum in odd clothes.

She took the bus into the city
and had her snow-white hair dyed blue,
went to the studio at the corner
and there received her first tattoo.

As if this weren’t enough to make her
feel younger and a little hip,
for something even more outrageous
she got a piercing through her lip.

And then she went to her reception,
embarrassing, more than allowed,
her children and her great-grandchildren
while doing her grandchildren proud.


Cold War Cafe

In the Cold War Cafe on campus we met
every night, the straight and the queer,
said hello to our friends, sat down and lit up
and drank beer that tasted of beer.
We were discussing the downfall of music,
how Kim Basinger's hair was curled,
the superpowers and all the horrors
if either took over the world.

In the Cold War Cafe on campus we mused;
at our table we didn't stint
on our criticism and talked about
what the press weren't allowed to print.
To escape unemployment, a lot of young men
whom History hadn't taught
volunteered for the army, for they were convinced
there'd be no more wars to be fought.

In the Cold War Cafe on campus we told
the jokes some are posting with glee
anonymously on the net,
because there was no PC.
We laughed at hilarious comedies
that no one dare filming today
since the euphemism language police
would see them get carried away.

In the Cold War Cafe till late at night
we'd smoke and drink and plot,
and our most traumatic experience
was the day John Lennon got shot.
When we learned of injustice anywhere
in the world, which often occurred,
we left our drinks and went out on the street
to let our voices be heard.

We didn't think that the world could change
(except for the better, of course);
the Cold War Cafe was where we'd be
until it closed its doors.
And now that a generation has passed,
there's a different neighbourhood,
and I found a recycling facility
where the Cold War Cafe once stood.


The Sixties

The pastel colours that discreetly
predominated flat and mind,
the aunts and uncles who adored me
are things I had to leave behind;

The granny with her bedtime stories
(when long I should have been in bed),
the sign above the ESSO station
(the first word that I ever read);

The walks along the River Elbe
or through the woods, and everywhere
it seemed to me that there was always
some kind of music in the air.

The crystal voices of such singers
as Connie Francis brought us bliss;
though there were other sounds, they wouldn’t
be heard in pious homes like this.

And everybody was nostalgic
and put his memories on a shelf;
but are our memories not better
than, tell me true, the thing itself?

Yet nothing’s lost; I have my music
as long as I will carry on,
and every decade has its magic
which can’t be seen before it’s gone.


The Silence

Born nineteen years after the monster
had gone and left its lair in ruins,
living with sixty million victims
who never talked about those days,
each time I saw an elder woman
or man, I wondered where they were.
I felt like screaming (but bit my tongue),
What did you do when you were young?

The priests, bus drivers, tramps and judges,
waitresses, dustmen, politicians,
retired couples on the park bench
or the old teacher at our school
may have appeared quite harmless – still
one never knows for sure, and often
I felt like screaming (but bit my tongue),
What did you do when you were young?

Three of the villains took their lives,
the remaining twelve were executed.
All others got away as servants
who followed orders; in the meantime
they died of (or are dying of)
old age, and it’s a shame I can’t
believe these people have to face
their judgement yet.


The Hiders

As soon as they’d managed to quell our inherent
commitment to sensibility’s call,
the hiders of sense have concealed the apparent
and sell us the emperor’s clothes for the ball.

What remains of our sanity will be subjected
to the whip of community, sentencing sooth,
until we concede hiders must be protected
from challenging facts and the beaten truth.

With our reason and judgement sedated severely,
not permitted to open our eyes while awake,
we encourage the hiders to leave us with merely
one crumb they are calling our piece of the cake.


In the Morning

The crimson streaks of morning
stretch low across the skies:
the sun sent his red riders
to tell us he will rise.

Then get your spirit ready
to share, to take and give,
and shed a thought to those ones
who aren’t allowed to live.


Declaration of Sanity

We know what we do when the waters are gathering round us,
our mind and our conscience are clear when we're tying the knot,
we know what we do when we're finally pulling the trigger,
for, looking at life's opportunities, this is the best.

We won't give you hints or a sign that we want you to help us,
we won't beg for pity or hope to be rescued in time;
would your respect for us grow if you knew what we're up to,
and would you not only pretend that you suddenly care?

You dare to accuse us of causing you heartache and sorrow,
but why should we suffer a lifetime to set you at ease?
This curious meaningless world was not made for our people:
we know we are leaving for good and know certainly why!


Worlds

She stood at the door of the caravan
and stared at the radiant sky
when he drove to college in his
first convertible.

She sat on a box in the car park
and peeled the potatoes for supper
when his limousine brought him to church
on his wedding day.

She played with her kids in the alley,
dressed in anything others could spare,
when he went to his child’s First Communion
in his favourite suit.

She lay in a grave by the roadside,
unmarked, with no headstone nor flowers,
when the mourners followed his hearse
all the way to the churchyard.


A Pagan Christmas Carol

It's darker now than ever, and we bow
before the saviour of the world; he died,
the sun god sacrificed his life, but now,
three days after he has been crucified,
he'll rise again. Hosanna in the Highest!

Rebirth of Nature, thou must show the way
to the renewal of the life inside:
the longest night leads to the longest day,
the barren fields will bloom, and what has died
shall live again. Hosanna in the Highest!

Returning sun, thou welcomst at thy door
the changing seasons that will bring our fill;
we celebrated Christmas long before
Christianity, and certainly we will
long after it. Hosanna in the Highest!


When Home Is Like a Latin Test

When home is like a Latin test,
your mind is always strung,
and little buzzing imps infest
your bowels with their young.

When home is like a Latin test,
your folks will stay at bay:
their looks are narrowing your chest,
the things they do not say.

When home is like a Latin test,
you'll ask (and ask again)
for their applause - a painful quest,
and just as well in vain.

Instead of giving your very best,
you should desert their hells:
if home is like a Latin test,
your place is somewhere else.


The Omelette Promise

They tell you that to make an omelette
you have to break some eggs,
but there is more to making omelettes
than simply breaking eggs.

The world is full of broken eggs,
and yet in Life’s canteen
where we’re fed up by many a cook
no omelette can be seen.

Let’s sack these chefs of humankind
and live on fruit and trout:
we’ve had no omelette to this day,
and we’ll be grand without!


The Fairy Tale of the Golden Scraps

The king’s men visit every day
and take our wine and bread,
our water and our meat away:
the lords have to be fed.

‘A happy lord has happy serfs,’
they tell each man and child;
our lords are happy, but we serfs
have never even smiled.

And so we went to see the king,
appealing at the gates
to give us what is ours and bring
some food back to our plates.

He scrutinised our rags, ‘I see
where you are coming from,
but it is not that simple; we
must show a bit aplomb.

‘I’m sure you think your lords are bored
and idle; that’s not so,
for there is more to being a lord
than you will ever know.

‘They gave you work; with due respect,
demanding more is rude,
and they can certainly expect
a bit of gratitude.

‘You know you ought to feed your lords
who sit around the spit,
and he’s a thief who eats or hoards
the tiniest little bit.

‘But once your lords have had their fill
which will be soon, perhaps,
round overloaded spits you will
be eating golden scraps.

‘The more they have, the less they need,
but if you’re taking back
what’s theirs, the noose of your own greed
will tighten round your neck!’

And so we starve from day to day
and watch disgustedly
our masters’ barbarous display
of greed and gluttony.

They stuff their face with food galore
all day and all night long -
‘They cannot possibly eat more,’
we think; they prove us wrong.

They eat until their stomachs split
while watching us collapse
as we still kneel around their spit
and wait for golden scraps.


My Forty Acres

Promises. The surefire practice
to obtain without committing,
chasing dewdrops like a cactus
in the sun remains the fool.
But I shall claim what’s mine now, health permitting:
I want my forty acres and the mule!

Where the futures cast their shadows
though there is no light, they take us
captive in what should be meadows,
and the other captives drool,
‘Be patient, they will not forsake us.’
I want my forty acres and the mule!

When at last the doubting Thomas
was proved right again, and dust is
settling on another promise
where the promise masters rule,
I’ll stand before the king and call for justice,
I want my forty acres and the mule!

When we die as holy rollers
with the promise as the centre
of our being, they’ll console us,
‘We have failed you in the school
of life, but once you leave this world, you’ll enter
a world with forty acres and a mule.’


A World Before Man

Once buffalo roamed through the plains
who grazed there, peacefully
living amongst their families
as far as one could see.
Those herds, no matter how we try,
will not be seen again:
I hope God kept a backup world
when he created man.

The forests teemed with many birds
of every shape and size
who with their colours and their voice
delighted ears and eyes.
Their songs, no matter how we try,
will not be heard again:
I hope God kept a backup world
when he created man.

The beauty of this planet is
a pleasure of the past,
and we are told that on this Earth
nothing is meant to last.
But if indeed there’s this divine
creator’s master plan,
I’m sure he kept a backup world
when he created man.


Shotgun Wedding

I had a dream which was not all a dream.
-GEORGE BYRON

Two friends of mine got married; on their wedding
there was a band that played some merry tunes,
and people standing at the bar would listen
or talk to others. All around the house
the walls were decorated and the doors,
and everybody had a swinging time.
Then, later in the afternoon, some strangers
appeared and joined the party; no one knew them,
and no one wanted to. They all were dressed
in ragged sleeveless shirts and army trousers;
around their waist they wore a leather belt,
and in that belt a gun. They stood and drank,
their elbows on the counter; they were laughing
and watching others. Every now and then
they'd draw their guns and shoot one of the guests;
the few ones who complained were shot as well,
and soon the house was silent. While I stood
and drank my cocktail, I was anxious, hoping
they wouldn't notice me - I looked away
whene'er someone was killed. They did not seem
to pay attention to me, and the phone
was right beside me, so I picked it up
and dialled the number of the local police.
I told them everything that I had seen,
afraid in case they might be watching me -
but no one did, and several minutes later
the police arrived. They went up to the counter
and ordered drinks, and every now and then
they'd draw their guns and shoot one of the guests;
the few ones who complained were shot as well,
and soon the house was silent. Still the men
ignored my presence as it seemed, but when
I quietly tried to sneak out of the building,
their leader put his arm around me with
a friendly smile and offered me a drink.
We chatted and we laughed; I complimented
them on their aim, and after many hours
of tense companionship I slowly started
to feel quite safe, for I was sure they had
not been aware that it was I who called
the police earlier on. I once again
tried to sneak out while no one watched;
I lost my balance when I felt the cold
steel at my temple, tripped, and as I fell
he pulled the trigger.


The Pebbles

Grounded in the bed of reason,
moved by strong but futile love
for mankind, we sense the turmoil
of the busy world above.
When the angry storm clouds gather
and the waves pile high and break,
we will hardly shift positions,
like a pebble in the lake.
We will hardly shift positions,
like a pebble in the lake.

Gently swayed beneath the surface,
safely resting in the sand,
we stay calm through the tornado
we don’t care to understand.
When amidst the rolling thunder
all the Earth’s foundations quake,
we await the end of madness,
like a pebble in the lake.
We await the end of madness,
like a pebble in the lake.


Speech to the Freemen's Galaxy

Beloved Brothers of the Knowing Heart,
we have gathered on this summit,
not at a certain time, not in a particular place,
but in all parts of the Earth
and every era mankind has seen and will see,
to tell the world who we are!

We're a handful of new creations,
a whim of Nature, so to speak,
an experiment; and as Nature dismisses everything
that is not able to survive,
we'll have to fight, or we will be exterminated!

We have no leader apart from our spirit,
we have no followers apart from our mind,
and we are guided by determined will and intransigent love!

Whereas we strive for freedom, we're aware
that freedom is brought forth by life:
a dead man can't be free, no matter what they say -
therefore we value life at any stage,
opposed to the majority who doesn't,
who takes the life of others for whichever reason,
for from our own experience we know:
anybody could become one of us!

We will take an eye for an eye, and not two;
we will take a tooth for a tooth, not a jaw.
If our neighbour tries to steal our corn, we'll steal his;
if our neighbour tries to kill us, we'll kill him.

We have to protect life from those who take it,
but yet the only ones who have the right to take theirs
are their victims. Remember always:
anybody could become one of us!

We will pick up a gun and rise against oppressors -
not for a country or a nation,
not for the government or bourgeoisie,
but for ourselves and the ones we love!
We take the right to destroy any oppressor
with all his executives
to gain and defend our freedom!

We are frugal with our thunderbolts! Why should we strike
somebody down who in a few decades will be forgotten,
if with this very thunderbolt we could disrupt
a whole millennium of decadence?

How could he feel the earth beneath his feet
who doesn't know the Gospel according to Philotes,
who never worshipped himself in the Temple of Beauty,
who never saved a life and felt sorry for it,
who never went home when it wasn't there?

We've seen the gods, all dressed in women's clothes,
we've quaffed the cup of humankind,
we've grasped the spirit of the world in naked flesh,
and we've deflowered every claim for truth!

We feel no hatred towards the servile masses,
those carnivores in flesh and herbivores in mind,
just as the lone wolf feels no hatred towards the pack;
we only know our place is somewhere else,
and so we look upon them with love and pity
and sometimes jealousy. But still we know:
anybody could become one of us!

Afraid of thoughts they could not handle,
as they'd destroy the pillars of their assembly hall,
they close their doors to life;
instead of flying on the wings of passion,
they lift their clubs against each other and enrol in
Satan's it-hued teatime force.

They call themselves human, but still there is
too much armpit scratching and throwing
to distinguish them from their fathers.
We know the advantages of their frowzy homeliness and common enmities.
It's easier to follow than to question.
It's easier to lead than to answer.

One day we'll take over, or we'll be gone,
an evolved species or a deserted freak.
We're only a handful, maybe not fit for survival -
what are the lion's chances against a pack of hyenas?
Yet we will stay in our place and not yield,
nobly succeeding or nobly perishing
with forbearing pride, for we are still aware:
anybody could become one of them!


Payback Time

White man, the million trees that fed
a people for a thousand years,
the forest of their life is dead
since you have claimed it for your peers;
you have completed your grand theft,
chopped the last tree for lumber, not
forgetting its last fruit and left
a desert in its place. This spot
will feed its people nevermore;
now they come knocking at your door
for help to get them back on track:
don’t give them alms! Just pay them back.

Not only did you take their few
resources like their food and trees,
you even took their people, too!
Abducted from their families,
the slaves were forced to work and breed
like cattle to create your vast
fortunes, and once these men were freed,
you left them penniless. The past,
you claim, once dealt with, counts no more;
now they come knocking at your door
for help to get them back on track:
don’t give them alms! Just pay them back.

You rob the land, the gold, the oil,
the coal, all goods of any worth
from every place your hands can soil,
from every country on this Earth,
then point at those that you deprive
of wealth and dignity and say,
I’ll loan you what I robbed, but strive
to pay your interest every day!
With nothing left, they pay no more,
and now they’re knocking at your door
for help to get them back on track:
don’t give them alms! Just pay them back.

And you who owe the white man naught
except the finger, when at last
all debts are settled (what a thought!),
you’ll live in comfort, and the past
will seem an unrelenting trial
rewarded by eternal bliss,
by growing wealth and fortune while
the white man thirsts and starves since his
‘developed countries’ are no more;
he will come knocking at your door
for help to get him back on track:
don’t give him alms! Don’t let him back!


Incestry

Evolution works through constant changes,
crossing creatures of each type and race:
any species that refused to mingle
disappeared from Earth without a trace.

Ancient royal families were staying
to themselves and married their own kind:
getting weaker by the generation,
all their lines eventually declined.

Nature is a permanent creator
and improves its creatures all the time.
Racism is incest; if continued,
man will be extinct before his prime.


Impression

The cave is still there and the paintings within,
the seeds they consumed and the tools that they used,
the bones of their prey and the stones on their graves;
the river, the river is rolling.

Their images, sealed by the skin of the earth,
will always be lifelessly lying between
the mountains of skulls from the wars of their gods;
the river, the river is rolling.

The smoke disappeared and the chimney decays,
the cross falls apart and the church bells are mute,
the houses deserted and covered with weeds;
the river, the river is rolling.


The End of Neutrality

The Ogre is at peace with us.
For dozens of generations
he tortured us and ate our children,
destroyed our harvests and stole our cattle;
he burnt our homes and slaughtered our kin,
enslaved us and forced us to fight in his wars.
But finally we managed to defeat him:
we live in peace with the Ogre.

The Ogre is trading with us.
After all those years that we've been on our own,
trying to build a new home on the ruins he left us,
trying to cultivate the charred fields,
we rose like a phoenix from the ashes, and now
we're doing business with the Ogre.

The Ogre protects us.
As long as he lets us live in his shadow,
no one will dare to provoke or attack us:
we're safe in the shelter of our friend.
So should we not repay his kindness
today, get armed and help him in
his everlasting struggle against children?
We're ready to join forces with the Ogre!


The Continuing Story of Harmony Hill

In better days the Bearded People
lived happily in the green fields of Harmony Hill,
and dancingly, lovingly, drinkingly, fightingly passing
their days, they thought of no evil.

But, gazing with envy upon their rich meadows and orchards,
watching their harvest being too full to be gathered,
the Shaved People assembled one day at the bottom
of Harmony Hill and decided to conquer the land.

They invaded the hill with their army at night
and slaughtered the children, the men and the women in their beds:
the few who survived had to serve the Shaved People,
and while the invaders were selling their fruits to the neighbours,
they starved to death.

There was food for the Shaved People - not for the Bearded.
There were rights for the Shaved People - not for the Bearded.

For aeons they slaughtered each other:
the Shaved killed the Bearded to strengthen their position,
the Bearded killed the Shaved to free their country.
They massacred men and women and children
as long as their facewear made them an enemy.

One day, at the top of Harmony Hill, their leaders
met face to face, and, lifting their spears to start the battle,
abused one another with voices that shrieked with excitement.
'We've lived on this hill ever since; we were happy
until you invaded our country and butchered our people,
until you enslaved us and stole all our wealth from this land!
Go home now and leave us in peace, or we'll fight you
until your race is exterminated or ours!' -
'We did not invade this hill,' screamed the other,
'we were born, we were bred on Harmony Hill:
there's no other home that we could or we would ever go to.
Don't blame the Shaved People for the deeds of their fathers;
they may have brought us here by their conquest,
but Harmony Hill is our home, and it always will be!'
They looked closely into each other's eyes
and straightened and hesitated and trembled
and finally lowered their spears.
'But what can we do?' they sadly said to each other,
'as long as we've different facewears, the war will go on!' -
'But why should we have different facewears at all?
If we all wore moustaches, we'd all be the same!'
So the Shaved and the Bearded People laid down their weapons
and grew moustaches.

The next generations will still talk about the feast
that followed on Harmony Hill:
Moustached People sharing their wine and their fruits and their lives,
not asking the previous facewear of any brother
sitting beside them!

- But in hidden holes in the ground of Harmony Hill,
anxiously lurking like rats on the pounce,
there are Shaved People still and Bearded People, armed to their teeth,
waiting for their time to come!


The Spirit of Revolution

The servant sings the songs of freedom
in local pubs and cheers,
for this improves a man's digestion
and adds the spice to beers.

-HEINRICH HEINE

Standing at the bar, I listened
to their talk of revolution,
and their sweaty faces glistened
as they said, 'The casts remain -
our weapons aim at every institution
that keeps the slave in bonds without the chain!'

'Bring the government of neighbours;
we don't want a lord or master!' -
'And the land on which one labours
and the harvest must be his!' -
'Those overseers who tell us to work faster
don't value life and freedom as it is!' -

'They allege we have no morals,
being used to their inflation.' -
'Till the gallows or the laurels
we will fight for anarchy,'
announced their leader to his congregation,
'for every man and woman shall be free!'

Soon the pints became more shallow,
so he raised his arm, and staring
at the stump I heard him bellow,
'One more round for all my friends!'
I watched them closer as they kept on swearing
and realised that none of them had hands.


The Bystanders

We gazed at the sea and debated,
as they burnt our town to the ground,
the beauty of God’s creation
in everything around.

We basked in the sun that the Maker
made to bring light and life to this earth
as they butchered our friends in their houses
and spilled their blood on the hearth.

When they poisoned our water and cattle
and the others prepared for the worst,
we sat and admired the sunset,
and now we hunger and thirst.


Remembered Classes

Firstly, there is the working class:
with every building,
street, bridge and fountain
the future will remember.

Secondly, there’s the artist’s class:
with every painting,
song, film and poem
the future will remember.

And then we have the ruling class:
taking our money,
spending our money,
it soon will be forgotten.


Do You Ever Dream?

You rule the country in our name,
you give our money to the rich,
and you tell us that we're to blame
if we stay poor and others rich
- do you ever dream?

You're owner of our company
and like to watch us while we work,
we pile your profits patiently
till we're too old and weak to work
- do you ever dream?

You are executive of the state,
and you believe you got the right
to follow orders very straight
against those fighting for their right
- do you ever dream?

So you are victim of this game,
and there won't ever be a change,
for you shut up and bear the shame:
you pay for them, they keep the change
- do you ever dream?


The Sun of Varosha

The Sun of Varosha smiled brightly
on the vibrant small seaside resort
with its toffs who were taking life lightly
when Atilla invaded the port.

The Sun of Varosha stood silent
when tranquillity came to a halt
as Darkness assembled her violent
brigades and prepared for assault.

When things couldn’t get any posher,
the vacations of women and men
were cut short, and the Sun of Varosha
won’t shine on its beaches again.


The Mustard Fields of Gaza

The mustard fields of Gaza
lie waste, burnt to the ground,
but deep beneath the surface
the roots can still be found.

Come spring, their shiny flowers
will face the sun once more,
and little girls will pick them
just like they did before.

They’ll always be returning
with constancy that yields
joy to the playful children
in Gaza’s mustard fields.


The War of the Bottles

Hans Island is a barren rock which lies
amidst the hostile Arctic Ocean, far
from any human bustle, yet it is
claimed both by Denmark and by Canada.

Canadian troops take down the Danish flag
and hoist their own before they are away,
leaving some whisky bottles with the note,
‘Welcome to Canada! Enjoy your stay.’

The Danish troops take down the Maple Leaf
and hoist the Danish flag without delay,
leaving schnapps bottles with the friendly note,
‘Welcome to Denmark! Have a pleasant day.’

No casualties upon the bottlefield
call for more blood to flow, and all the while
no one gets hurt, no buildings are destroyed,
and foreigners are welcomed to the isle.

So here’s to Denmark and to Canada
who found a cultured way to disagree
and civilised the handling of disputes:
three cheers, for this is war as war should be!


War

Risen! He has risen who has slept so long,
risen from the deepest vaults where he grew strong,
taller and unrecognised you see him stand
in the twilight, crushing the moon with pitch-black hand.

In the evening noise of cities it spells doom,
frost and shadows of a foreign darkness loom.
Bustling markets freeze, and their excitement grows
silent. And they turn around. And no one knows.

On the streets it taps their shoulders in the gale.
Questions. And no answers. And a face grows pale.
In the distance there’s a shiv’ring knell’s faint cry,
beards quake on their pointed chins. They wonder why.

On the mountains he performs a dance at night,
shouting, ‘Warriors, get ready for the fight!’
And it echoes as he’s swinging his black head
with the chain of thousand skulls from valiant dead.

Tower-like he stamps the embers in the mud,
where the day has fled, the rivers turn to blood.
Corpses without number stretch across the reeds
where the birds of death have whitened out their deeds.

Over ramparts in blue flames he stands and reigns,
over sounds of clashing weapons in black lanes,
over gates across which guards and watchmen lie,
over bridges buckling from the dead piled high.

Chasing fire throughout the night he plans his schemes,
this red hound with wild snouts’ terrifying screams.
From the darkness springs night’s planet, black and grim,
dire volcanoes there illuminate its brim.

Thousand scarlet stocking caps lie scattered wide,
flick’ring on the gloomy plains where hopes subside.
And what’s on the streets he sweeps into the pyre
as he feeds the flames and stokes the raging fire.

And the flames devour each forest in their path,
yellow bats claw into leaves with jagged wrath.
Like a charcoal burner with his pole he beats
tree tops so the fire burns brighter for more feats.

In the yellow smoke a city disappeared,
threw itself straight in the abyss of what it feared.
But colossally over glowing ruins stands
he who twists his torch three times in skies all dense,

Over the reflection of the storm-torn clouds,
the dead darkness’ icy wastelands and its shrouds,
so the blaze can scorch the night with breath aglow,
pouring pitch and fire on Gomorrah down below.

(Translation of Georg Heym’s Der Krieg)


Apocalypse

It all began when... well, nobody knows
just when it started, but the dreadful close
always seemed near for some millennia
and always will as long as humans star
in Earth’s experimental drama with
a plot inspired and backed by many a myth,
a script that isn’t finished and a stage
without a curtain. The antagonists rage
against each other and in turn destroy
each other’s people though they still enjoy
their nemeses’ companionship when they
discuss an armistice or peace that may
never take place; and if it does, a new
archenemy will, as they always do,
show up around the corner. All the piles
of compostable bodies without aisles
between are good for business, we’re assured,
and that’s what makes worthwhile the pain endured.
We are disposable extras in a play
we didn’t choose, and we don’t have a say
in what our part is; neither do we know
how long it is and when we’ll have to go.
We often hear, as all our hopes disperse,
one chorus chanting, ‘Now it can’t get worse,’
the other chorus chanting, ‘It’s the end!’
aware that both are wrong. And as we fend
for both ourselves and ours, we know quite well
of people who experience the hell
of fire and brimstone every single day,
and those who flee are being sent away
from every other place. Some of us trust
the ancient voices that repeat we must
continue fighting enemies as long
as they exist, but that our side is strong -
just one more carpet bombing, one more race
to be eliminated from the face
of the earth, and afterwards we will be done:
mankind will live in concord once we’ve won.
The road to victory and peace, we’re told,
is almost travelled, and that we should hold
out just a little longer and not doubt;
that road, however, is a roundabout.
Every few decades Sanity, quite shy,
pops up his head amidst the daisies by
the arid roadside just before a grim
squadron of heavy tanks rolls over him.
Most extras play their parts as ordered, yet
more and more minor actors on the set
call out for a protagonist to save
the incoherent play and those who crave
a sane new world instead of the eclipse
of man; until that time, the Apocalypse
is ongoing.


The Soldier's Farewell

So I have to leave my friends and beloved ones
to kill my brothers and sisters
who happen to live under the jurisdiction
of another government,
and it's unlikely that I'll ever return.

In a few years
one of the parties will hoist the white flag
over our graves.

And those who sent me out to die
will meet at a marble table,
sign a paper and
shake hands.


The Ultimate Empire

Since man exists, all children play together,
but, prompted by their greedy wives, their dads
would covet their own brothers’ land and cattle
and mercilessly club each other’s heads.

The clans that thus emerged attacked their neighbours
and took control of everything they had,
creating tribes which, constantly expanding,
would rather count their loot than count their dead.

In ever larger units they were striving
to conquer other countries, war by war,
and soon the warriors didn’t know the faces
of those they killed in battle any more.

The chiefs that won and came to rule a county
soon foddered those with a more ambitious mind
who forced them into nations, states and empires
where their prestige and influence declined.

And when the world was just a handful of empires,
it was decided to reset the score -
each risked it all to fight for world dominion
in one (what pleonasm!) bestial war.

After that war most empires fell asunder,
the two remaining ones now cleared the field;
all nations, with the mask of independence
crudely shoved on their faces, had to yield.

Too scared, those empires wouldn’t fight each other
directly, but they both would claim their share,
destroy all lands opposed to being exploited
and plant their little Hitlers everywhere.

They tried to starve each other, they were slaying
each other’s satraps in the light of day
until the Russian Bear died of exhaustion
and left his empire to the bird of prey.

Left without equal foes, the last survivor
and victor kills the butterflies he finds;
he squashes ants to demonstrate his power
and keep his deadly talons on our minds.

Now the American Eagle rules this planet
apart from where the Sleeping Dragon lies;
he only fears his enemies may dwindle
or that one day the Dragon may arise.

What man has striven for since his creation
is now complete, his quest is near its end:
the ultimate supremacy of one ruler,
the world’s command and power in one hand!

One world, one empire! One führer for all nations,
one leader to decide our destiny -
but History is written by the winner,
and he proclaims his chains have made us free!

What next? Either the Dragon will surrender
or lose a battle for world dominance.
Man has achieved his goal; without a challenge
his empire’s bound to end in decadence.

And when that happens, every little chieftain
will see his chance to conquer and get crowned;
assured that this time things will work out better,
mankind will settle for another round.


Victim's Heaven

They say he'll never make me happy,
and I should leave again;
I didn't marry to be happy,
I married to complain.

'How do you cope with a man like him
who has no love to show
and treats you like you aren't there?
- That's if you're lucky, though.

'How can you live with one who argues
with you on Valentine's?'
Remarks like that, believe you me,
go down like Ballantine's.

Their pity makes my life worthwhile,
although they'll never guess:
the sympathy they show for me,
that is my happiness!


What Makes Man What He Is?

We look down on Nature's creation, and this
is what we enquire: What makes man what he is?

Some say we evolved from the apes, using tools,
some say we matured by agreeing on rules,

Some say man is only one part of the whole,
some say that a god gave us spirit and soul,

Some say we are more through the power to think,
some say that to superman we are the link,

Some say we're just carnivores, killing about:
they kill to survive while we kill to wipe out.

On ruins and blood of our brothers we feast:
the will to destroy separates us from beast.


Country Song

They’re sitting at the table
with empty heart and mind,
not really there, unable
to struggle or to find.
There’s many a silent moocher
with his eyes fixed on his drink
and his back turned towards the future
who only drinks to think.

And as he keeps on drinking
to the state of mind he’s in,
he also keeps on thinking
of the life that should have been.
And it’s here they drink their potions
to forget their hopes and fears
with a fistful of emotions
and a pocket full of tears.

The piano man keeps playing
with poignancy and phlegm,
and sure it goes without saying
that he is one of them.
The barman never mentions
a family or wife;
some bet their meagre pensions
on whether he’s a life.

And when he ceases trading
and dims the gloomy light,
they leave and soon are fading
in the dreaded peace of night.
And it’s here they drink their potions
to forget their hopes and fears
with a fistful of emotions
and a pocket full of tears.


The Peace of the Dunes

When the bustle and noise of the city around
pierce my mind with their beat and monotonous sound
and the voice in my head sings her ominous tunes
I retire from the town to the peace of the dunes.

Where the buttercups melt in the sun, where the skies
and the bluebells that silently ring in my eyes
spread the sound of a higher serenity
I lie down to the song of our lady the sea.

For pacific souls in Atlantic domains
this gate to the other realm still remains:
in the sun’s gentle light and at night the pale moon’s,
there is nothing on Earth like the peace of the dunes.


The Rocky Cycle of Life

There’s something about sedimentary rock
at the shore and on hillocks and mountains I climb,
addressing me from a celestial clock
like a postcard from the Dawn of Time.

The shells and the bones of those aeons gone by
created these mountains of limestone around
when mankind was a glimpse in a hominoid's eye
and a door to a world without man could be found.

Small creatures, for millions of years to this day,
have shaped and arranged this whole range and this land
through which mighty glaciers were forcing their way
to the sea where their travels would come to an end.

Yet the moss on those rocks bears the message for me
that life, though it's short, is determined to last,
for, attaching itself to the rocks that I see,
there's new life that's growing on life of the past.


Witness

He staggers over cans and stones beside
the dirty bay, as helpless as a chick
that leaves the nest – but he will leave this world.
His lifeless eyes are focussed on the ground
while carefully he measures his next step
as though he knows that each could be his last.
Once more he spreads his wings in an attempt to
remind the world of bygone days when he
ruled reed and river, but he slips and needs
the wings to stop his fall, and gracelessly
tries to stand up while his unkempt vibrissae
like Santa’s long white beard swings in the breeze,
his plumage looks as shabby as a vulture’s
poor outfit as he tries to find a grip
for his unsteady claws. I wish that I
could help this creature, but I know I can’t
and turn away from him with pensive thoughts;
it’s sad to see a heron die.


Early Bird

The fledgling wants to stay in nest
all day, but Mother Bird stays firm,
‘At cockcrow vermin tastes the best -
the early bird catches the worm!’

But as he spreads his wings, he’s hit
by a worm-eaten branch and cries;
the damage renders him unfit
to keep on living, and he dies.

The worms that populate this place
rejoice and gladly spread the word
and leave their holes and crawl a race:
the early worm catches the bird!


Playing God

Why shouldn’t God play dice? How does he pass
the idle hours in between creations
after his angels went to sleep or work
and he desires some adult entertainment?

Why shouldn’t God play dice? It is a vice
to gamble when relying on the outcome,
but here’s a man who couldn’t lose at all –
and if he did, he’d have no trouble paying.

Why shouldn’t God play dice? Has he no right
to improvise whenever he’s creating,
can he not do whate’er he wants to do
without requiring scientists’ approval?


Snapshot of the World

Mankind has never been alone:
the Earth, its creatures and its sod
were here before us, and we own
no world, no country and no clod.

What happened prior to our birth
we do not know, we’re unaware
of matters elsewhere on this Earth:
most of the time we were not there.

For places we’re not in today
as well as for the past we must
rely, since there’s no other way,
on sources we decide to trust.

Despite scenarios galore
we’ll never know what lies ahead
and what the future holds in store:
most of the time we will be dead.

Our knowledge of the world we’re in
has barely scratched the surface, nor
have we explored its deeper skin
and layers, let alone its core.

Besides, the globe’s a tiny speck
within the Milky Way which sees
itself as nothing but a fleck
amongst billions of galaxies.

In that brief span for which we’re hurled
into existence, this short stroll,
we see a snapshot of the world:
how could we understand the whole?


Gypsy’s Green

They returned with their horses and carts,
their caravans, children and pets,
bringing songs, fortune telling and arts
to all those who are caught in the nets
of unchange where a change is required
and necessities cannot be seen:
the gypsies, a folk that inspired
our young minds, camped on Gypsy’s Green.
We were told not to go, but at night
we watched our parents sneak out,
have their fortunes read and delight
in their music while dancing about.
Our desire for things foreign and strange
brought the gypsies on whom we were keen,
a people refusing to change,
to the oak trees on Gypsy’s Green.

And after they’d left, we all used
to pretend, as well as we could,
we were travelling people and mused
on the meaning of life, and we would
sing their songs, play their games and read palms
just like the old women we’ve seen
and impose on each other for alms
on the patches of Gypsy’s Green.
We would turn the toy barrows we had
into caravans housing us all,
and each night when we went to bed
fall asleep as we answered their call.
We’d all feel the desire burn
and await with the most serene
excitement the gypsies’ return
to the oak trees on Gypsy’s Green.

When the gypsies had fled, they were cut
and replaced by a tall padlocked gate,
and the windows and doors are nailed shut
of an unfinished ghost estate,
and all we can hear is the sound
of the wind and the pitiful lark
on the concrete walls that surround
what they now call Fugger’s Park.
There’s no sign of life in the place
that once seemed so cheerful and free
but now shows a desolate face;
yet, closing our eyes, we still see
a livelier spirit that streams
through the modern deserted scene,
for only in poems and dreams
we revisit Gypsy’s Green.


Fear

The pubs have closed their doors, and people stay
at home. The town is still, the streets deserted,
the daunting silence echoes from the hills:
none dare disturb the calm before the storm.
The storm would come? It always came before,
this time will be no different. – One holds one’s breath
and quietly prays behind drawn curtains.

The town awaits a funeral tomorrow:
a man whose death will waken vengeful spirits
and bring to life the demons of the present,
the future and the past. Today arrives
the violently grieving family.
He will be laid to rest tomorrow morning,
the town to unrest in the night.

Dawn breaks. One listens to the news: last night
an empty house was burnt, and there have been
a few small fights. - The funeral, however,
is yet to come; the Gards have seized some weapons
that had been hidden in the cemetery.
Still, all is passing off without a battle:
this time, one thinks, we got off lightly.

But this is not the end of it. Give it
a week or half a year, and we shall see
another funeral; for everyone
they kill, two of the others have to die,
continuing the cycle of death, tradition
of two large families who have no purpose
save that of killing one another.


Lamentation

Miss Fortune is so nice and meek,
but she is always on her way -
she´ll kiss you softly on the cheek
to leave again and say, 'Good Day'.

Misfortune on the other hand
will rest against her breast your head:
she´ll see in you her closest friend,
sit down and knit beside your bed.

(Translation of Heinrich Heine's Lamentation)


Santa's Son

My daddy's name is Santa Claus.
He is laid back and mild,
and you may think I would have cause
to be a happy child.

I get more presents, this is true,
and though this may appear
as an advantage unto you:
I see him once a year!

I envy all those kids whose dads
are living on the dole,
for they have time for their own lads -
mine's working at the Pole.

On Christmas Eve I'll clean my plate,
a carol I will sing
and, sitting at the fireplace, wait
to hear the sleigh bells ring.

I'll wait until I see his boot
appearing on the grate;
my mum will dust his crimson suit
and tell him that he's late.

He'll say that he is on his way
to bring the toys he made,
and that he'll take me there one day
to learn our fathers' trade.

He'll kiss me by the Christmas tree
and tell me I'm all right,
but he has no more time for me
than for my mum that night.


The Welcome

Walk softly on the mellow ground
and find a place to rest
your bones, because the slightest sound
might wake another guest.

This is a peaceful land. Our king
in silence leads his flock;
on Sundays we're allowed to sing
and hymn till twelve o'clock.

With milk and honey we are fed,
fed each and every day,
our bed is fluffy cotton, spread
upon a sheaf of hay.

Don't you admire the stars and sun
and hills? There is so much.
Those beauties shall be looked upon -
they vanish with a touch.

So praise our king, but drop your voice,
and treat your hungry eyes,
and let your weary heart rejoice:
you're now in Paradise.


Places of Interest

The pilgrims of the past, with faces
that glow excitedly,
visit a lot of ancient places
that shaped the destiny
of their big heroes; they don't get tired
of going where poets are laid,
where famous artists were inspired
or history was made.

The streets of Sligo from which Bram Stoker
conceived his Dracula
have gone; today the fearsome croaker
wouldn't think of a count that bizarre.
The Star Club in Hamburg, widely known,
where the Beatles made it big,
is replaced by a posh memorial stone
where no one plays a gig.

I'd watch the sun who once has smiled
on Helen of Troy's golden hair,
the moon who inspirited Oscar Wilde
at the foot of the marble stair,
the stars whose rays long time ago
on Beethoven did fall,
and, watching them, I'm glad to know
they haven't changed at all.


Eight Minutes from the Sun

The present's the conclusion
of things that we have done,
the past is an illusion
eight minutes from the sun.

The future is a crater
whose depths we cannot shun,
while History's a traitor
eight minutes from the sun.

We take or miss our chances
as Truth is on the run,
and still we trust our senses
eight minutes from the sun.


The Garden of the Brain

Life is the garden of the brain,
and we should tend it while it’s ours
and not waste time by praying for rain
or doing headcounts of the flow’rs.

Let’s make the best of what is there
and sow the plants we want to see,
enjoy its challenges and share
its fruits in friendly company.

And like all those who lived before
have planted trees you now see grow,
make sure to plant one tree or more
for future dwellers you don’t know.

Some perfect moments can be had,
but be aware that they won’t stay
except in memory: be glad,
live long and prosper while you may!

(Inspired by Leonard Nimoy’s last tweet)


The City Tree

One day, footloose and fancy-free,
I leant against an ancient tree
right in the middle of the park
and cut my name into his bark.

His branches closed around me, and
he groaned, ‘Son, you must understand
that I have reason to object
to such displays of disrespect!

‘I was around through Henry’s reign
when terror ruled, and sword, and chain,
when he controlled his subjects’ lives
and killed his critics and his wives;

‘When Indians hunted buffalo
across the plains and didn’t know
that soon enough they’d share their fate
until the time it was too late;

‘When France replaced the tyranny
of its corrupted monarchy
with tyrants of another kind
that left humanity behind.

‘You ought to show respect to me:
I’ve seen more than you’ll ever see!’
And I replied, ‘This may be true,
but you will die before I do.’


Quandary

They've got their maps, they follow signs
or travel in a group,
they close their eyes and twirl around
or join a marching troop.

They're led, they lead, they change their ways,
they ask their heart and soul
for guidance, but the lot of them
appears to know their goal.

There's many a voice that’s asking me
to flee or to sojourn:
a crossroads every hundred yards,
I wonder where to turn.

Sometimes I'd like to cut a path
through woods on marshy ground,
but then again I might get lost
without a friend around.

The others seem to have no doubts:
some run and some go slow,
some care, some don't, but nonetheless
they have a place to go.

I look at them and at myself
with a despairing smile,
for as there are so many ways,
no goal can be worthwhile.


Hibernation

When the birches turn red in November
and the salmon are ceasing to leap
and the streams fill with rain from the mountains
it is time for all creatures to sleep.

To escape both the cold and the darkness
man and beast close their eyes to the world,
for the world now is dreaming and waiting
for the creatures that Nature has furled.

And when colour returns to the forests
and the salmon are seen in the lake
and the daffodils herald life’s triumph
we should think about whether to wake.


The Birch and the Mountain

Mountain:
My bidding must be done, tree!
I’m ancient, large and tall;
I dominate the country
while you are weak and small.

Birch:
It seems that you’re not thinking
ahead; it won’t stay so,
for you’re forever shrinking,
and I’ll forever grow!


Tree

Like a windswept old tree in the wilderness,
with his scraggy long arms in the sky,
with his bark a bazaar for the elements
and his roots undisclosed to the eye,

Who was guarding his plain throughout centuries
when our forefathers crawled from the caves
and established the rule of humanity
and first put the dead into graves,

We all stand in this world with our loneliness
for some decades with nothing to do,
to be cut with a chainsaw in wintertime,
and to burn for an hour or two.


Sunset

Neptune's sons and daughters in their castle deep,
rulers of the waters, have to go to sleep,
whisp'ring with the west wind, whisp'ring softly, whisp'ring.

And the Queen of Twilight with a warm caress
brings you dreams of skylight in her wanting dress,
rustling with the birches, rustling slightly, rustling.

Once our life decembered, we have found our spot:
some will be remembered, some will be forgot,
fading with the sunset, fading gently, fading.


The Dead Trade

The dying trade was weak, her servants silent,
but only those who sang her death song died;
the others scorn the joys these realms provide
and hope for others on another island.

Instead of Beauty they all worship Duty,
and men apologise for being there,
grim raven-collared toads croak everywhere,
but there's no minstrel who would sing of Beauty.

Beauty is gone long since - the sickly pigeon
survived the graceful swan, as now we know;
who would have thought a hundred years ago
that Poetry would die before Religion?


Those Who Were

As every year, this one has claimed
millions before their time, a few
of whom were never even named
nor buried and remain perdu.

Following others’ boundless greed
a multitude of people died,
often because their basic need
for food and water was denied.

Zeal and blind hatred have achieved
many a bloody killing spree,
and some were slain who were perceived
as burdens to society.

Many were killed out of a sense
of privileged entitlement,
and others under the pretence
that they’re inferior by descent.

Some are not human in the eyes
of their oppressors, so they slay
them for opposing their demise
or simply getting in the way.

Preventable diseases take
a larger toll of death each year,
and wars and occupations make
people and peoples disappear.

And as amidst our revelry
another year knocks at the door
with grim demeanour, my thoughts will be
with those who were and are no more.


Views

Pointing out our views are strong
does not prove our views are wrong.


Thus Spake Zarathustra (Summary)

To follow in my footsteps, you’ll have to go ahead:
you cannot follow me if you follow me.


What twenty-seven out of twenty-eight gravestones say:

He passed away.
He left. Nothing
can be said of him
that can't be said of others:
He breathed.
He ate.
He drank.
He slept.
He fucked.
He consumed.
He passed a way.
He left nothing.


© Frank L. Ludwig