Seven Seas of London

So this country is an island
this city a thousand more
this street another dozen
maybe fewer, maybe more

A thousand scowling natives
a thousand untapped mines
a thousand golden towers
a thousand untold crimes

And I’m Vasco da Gama,
sometimes Cortés on the shore
struggling to stake new claims
some are bloody, some are poor

I’m the one that watches
the steel wielding end
as all of my old temples fall
ages broken never bend

But there is no choice but sailing on
unless you stay to sink
because the seas between these islands
swallow up those
who stop
to think

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Minor Flame

Nothing worse than Whitey from a different country idly writing pretentious poetry about events thousands of miles away. But hey, spirit of the season eh?

A flying fist is a fiery thing
A thousand tanks are not

A dying child makes good print
A thousand dead just rot

An explosive flash in a quiet town
is every anchor’s dream

But a minor flame
on a cold, dark night
is everybody’s shame.

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Towers to Wings

A wave of wings washing the city
beauty above
for below only pity

The towers we raise in pale imitation
a sorry attempt at a human migration
But the higher we rise the longer the shadows
the greyer the streets
the deeper the shallows

And when we reach those heavenly heights
We find only pigeons
ravaged with blight
Because all that’s above is the same as below
And blind to that beauty
we have only the show

The Empty Riff

That same old empty riff
played out by a big band
in an empty chest
If Dean Martin’s there
he’ll need a drink
But better by far
if the lights just fade to black

Grown Children

I’m tentative to write anything serious about war in any form but poetry more than most. There’s plenty of real War Poetry out there from people who have some actual idea of what that actually means and people like me have no more right to comment than politicians do with their sound-bites or armchair generals do when they indulge in cheap jingoism. But given the time of year I thought I’d make an attempt at ignoring my reservations and try to get something down. Although I do so fully aware of my ignorance and urge everyone to look to what’s been written by those with real understanding rather than paying attention to my, or anyone else’s, notions of something we haven’t experienced – and hopefully never will.

Johnny was a five year old
playing football in the yard
Ivan was a teenager
flirting badly, trying hard
Tariq was the nerdy kid
sitting lonely in the house
And Saeed was the sporting star
endless trophies still to count

But when the bullets hit them
shells exploding on the ground
the Generals smiled and called them men
sure to hold their ground

Flags were flown at half mast
from Boston to Baghdad
the children they had sent off
made them proud and made them sad

Politicians, they saluted
Passers-by all stopped to weep
Such brave young men they declared
may our kids all be like them

But while a child changes
and grows beyond the games
They weren’t the men we wanted
when they lost their chance to live

Because I still remember Johnny
playing football in the yard
Ivan chasing all the girls
trying far too hard
Tariq learning not to hurt
friends made in lonely times
And I still remember Saeed
always winning from the start

Because they were all still children
and at the final mark
the bullets that destroyed them
sent them nothing but the dark