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No simple case of right and wrong

  • 20 May 2019


Selected poems



1. The salient

Just like the walls of Hadrian or Qin,

that writhe like serpents over hill and dale,

the front that parts the spirit from the world

runs through the heart of every soul on earth.

Each mind a watch-tower. No one in reserve.

No respite to the rear. We each look out

upon the soul's frontiers, debatable lands

of tussock, scarp and scree where matter mounts

a constant inward press upon the line,

seeking our reduction to dull stone,

subject to no law but entropy,

crumbling, like all minerals, into dust.


But we resist, some knowingly, most not.

We signal to each other from our posts:

our voices thread the waste and stir its grass

with gusts of song that play on measured feet.

We watch the sun, the stars, the moon wheel past,

the shadows lengthening, then growing short,

then stretched the other way like builder's line.


2. This is no simple case of right and wrong

I have a job to finish. Time grows short.

Not quite my time alone, though that may be,

but time that bears us all along its race.

The work that's held my undivided heart

now hangs upon the lip of the inane,

a path I've struck, unwinding meaning's ball,

or else a futile tangle, every day

more lost to telos, purpose and design.

No one else seems to have passed this way:

the notes I hear strike no one else's ears,

their music echoes in my head alone.

There mere tinnitus mocks the spheres' chorale,

and all I've loved appears pure vanity.

The pang is that I cannot say for sure,

must live this parallax of seer and fool

and own that either seems the case by turns.

Too late to walk it back, too soon to tell

until I cash my chips at break of day

and only then receive my tally told.


3. Rumblings

This doesn't stop with me. My vertigo

is more than just my inner ear's revolt.

The listing of the deck grows more pronounced.

The tremors underneath my feet the growl

of fixtures grinding loose from brace and stay,

a basso mutter ballast cannot hold.

Horizons grow confused as waters rise

and, plank by cleat, we slide beneath the foam.


4. Sentries: the watch

I may have years to wait, however sharp

the urgency that pinches all my nerves.

This is our part, to watch a lowering sky

fall curdled by the earth's own effluent.

Polarities reverse, low owning high

in joyless Saturnalian switcheroo.

Gibbering inarticulacy overruns

our puny barricades, our hull stove in.


All we can do is stand and note, as time

and time again the falls of Troy or Rome

get re-enacted underneath our gaze,

until we see the pattern in the