Amendments and agendas put aside
to mark the memory of those who died;
the damaged lives of that emergency;
a lot alive but still in tragedy;
and some who’ll never shift their injury;
and loved ones locked in pained expectancy;
and those who implemented protocol;
and those who carried out the protocol;
the hard worked plan of mass fatalities;
the worked-up plan for mass of casualties;
the transport and the food and beds for nights;
the turning wheels, the closing eyes, the lights;
the logging of the details, lives and times;
one homemade bomb, more than a thousand crimes;
ordinary people and extraordinary care;
the mass of feeling, piled in St Ann’s Square,
of those hit where they did not want to be
and heaped with grief that none should ever see.
Written on the Special Meeting of the Manchester City Council to reflect on the terrible events that took place at the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017.
Wow! The wind is blowin’, the rain is rainin’
slant across the windowpane – and in
the yard whole oceans storm across the grass
and make some parts too full of mud to pass.
In hours this windblown slop can dry to land
as course and granular as desert sand.
Indoors, most TV feeds disseminate
the propaganda of Islamic State;
from a few: the snuff pornography;
from most: the sand-march choreography:
for heated, arid, threat’ning orat’ry,
With sand-drop backgrounds hiding where they are,
on board their all-terrain-adapted car,
boist’rous men shoot heaven with their guns
with chorus lines where no compassion runs.
(There’s sometimes footage of explosion clouds,
but where the shelling’s gone is kept in shrouds.)
A black flag flaps its silver Arab script
like spores of mercury thoughtlessly tipped.
And ev’ry person in that warring van
has warped inside his head a poisoned plan
of how he’ll gnaw the erring world to change,
accepting fear as nothing new or strange.
But look! In the clear blue sky above, a cloud
as white as emptiness, (or stormed seas ploughed
by vast, smooth boats of floating gold) reveals
the hooves of horses leading chariot wheels
with Buddhas, Angels, Ancient Gods, and Saints
sailing through all negative restraints.
Navigating worlds we’ve never seen,
their forceful wake makes humans bow and lean.
Blinded men drive down a home-less road,
the combatants lift guns aloft to goad,
they run as sand-flecked breezes catch their drifts
and sand blows back and forth in tidal shifts.
I’m sure the chariot has tagged us all.
As local stormy raindrops slap and fall,
our eyes drenched by our blurred humanity,
we cannot know true judgment but can see,
when human deeds are measured Good and Bad,
it’s not a get-out clause to shout, ‘I’m Mad!’.
Victory for Russia! OR In Memoriam the USSR
On the dimmed anniversary of the 1918 October revolution
They marched in unison, hard-disciplined,
The best equipped and trained to move and stand.
Their enemies dropped down, their chopped heads spinned,
Kicked by well-cut boots on conquered land.
Napoleon conveyed the greatest army
Ever marched en mass until that day.
What hope for Russia, treasured mother country?
The Synod called the populous to pray.
Russians flocked in churches, pews were packed.
The incense felt around their hard-pressed hands,
And smoothed through hair, and over heads that lacked
Carved halos of the saints and angel bands.
Some tongues licked out for bloody victory.
Some lips to kiss their boys who would fall dead.
And many had full hearts of sympathy —
On both sides battle builds up piles of dead.
Napoleon came nearer with his brand
To stamp as slaves the country near at hand.
Inevitable as seeds rise from the land,
His fame and France would grow at his command.
The peasants scattered from their patched-up lives.
These field defenders burned their beasts and crops.
What foodless enemy or friend survives
On ground that’s overcooked? All feasting stops.
And when he entered Moscow — flames again.
No cheering crowds for liberation’s boot.
And as they mazed through Moscow’s pyrrhic den,
Few men felt pride, except those prizing loot.
His eyes met smoke’s attrition though he’d won,
Had taken country, cities, capital.
Soon the grand march home must be begun
With no belly-fill collateral.
His army dwindled on its iced-up way,
Niggled at by cossacks and disease.
No dignity, just dying ev’ry day.
The days went on and on. Time would not freeze.
The Russian people sang. Big church bells cheered.
Some showed God thanks for answering their prayers,
Some feasted on the loss of what they’d feared,
Some lit torches, bonfires, rockets, flares.
When communism boiled down love to toil,
The Royal Family was steamed in blood
That soaked through clothes and drained through floors and soil,
To buried bodies in a chilly wood.
Rich churches lost their lives and livelihood,
The clergy and the congregation, too,
All simmered down to “Communism’s good”,
The new drug they should be addicted to.
As millions died to feed this gen’ral good
And torture chains shift-changed to match the speed,
More soldiered on through tanks of inner blood,
Thus Private Sacrifice to Gen’ral Need.
Thus crossed out chapel dome. Thus pointless steeple.
Thus don’t trip on the bodies, just keep up.
Thus people less than people for the people.
Thus Socialist Realism looking up.
And when the convoluted cage collapsed
And people power stumbled in its void,
Deep cells lived on, the hard stuff only lapsed,
Was not dismantled, immunised, destroyed.
This drunken ideology held sway,
Was not de-bugged but gripped in cracks and stains.
Its struggles of destruction eat away,
Its will to cull what’s civilised remains.
When NAZI killers had their guilt read out,
Some were locked away while others died.
The bases of that breed were rooted out,
The mainstay of their creed de-nazi-fied.
But when the curtained Berlin Wall was breached
And structured Soviet command wiped out,
The core corrosive elements weren’t reached,
A deep acidic fungus spread about.
Of all the annotated marks Marx made
That I have read or have been told to me,
There’s little practical attention paid
To daily life beyond imagin’ry.
“Struggle, struggle, struggle, all the way
Towards that pie-high-sky Utopia.
Insinuate, deceive, and claw away
The status quo’s bent cornucopia.”
Though stealth and might of hand may swop their face
With land and states consumed by greedy pacts,
The jaws of secrecy are commonplace
And retribution’s grinding mouth exacts.
Though presidents replace high thrones with votes,
Gas canisters and smoke can crowd the streets;
Majorities are still waved off like motes.
And still squeezed rabbles quarrel with elites.
Galactic energies flame nuclear wars,
While black holes blind us through their swallowed planes.
We’re sand kicks fried on universal shores,
Specked forces glazed though losses, lulls, and gains.
O, when will marching time and firmaments
That played in courts of emperors and czars
Make human governments and presidents
Align once more with laws in step with stars?