The Wall in Iraq

A scene, called “Peace”, from the so-called “Standard of Ur”.

[My first blog post, back in 2009, was a far different version of the poem below. I removed it from the site when I started blogging again in 2013, and had no plans to revisit it. But for some reason, more than six years after I first wrote it, I have started writing it again—and have made it much shorter if not much else.
          So, gentle poem, welcome back to the internet. (And great Achilles will be sent once more to Troy!)]

The deepest past’s mere meters down,
a lot of dust no doubt to those
who made it, but even ground
this trodden—boots, bare soles—
is air to a bomb.
A wall that rose,
and was buried in time,

rises again, its surface glass-
like rock, blue as movie-star-eyes.
The weathered ones whose hands glossed
the standing stone, like skies
over Ur long watched
for sterile signs
of things to pass, have passed.

Colours, populous in nature,
do not penetrate the iris,
but glass can well invade her
eyes, two dirt-red pebbles
smoothed by salt water.
Something happens
with life, some stray contour

around the side of natural
beauty shakes its skin and crumbles
into want. A thimbleful
of chancing chemicals
falls in a careful
mess, carelessness
diluting the dead-still,

slow-dying purity of rock.
The girl picks lapis lazuli
from her eyes. Fired up and dropped,
the shrapnel of history
shattered her sight. Stop.
Do not worry.
Even walls cannot last.

Bucolic III

Gentle, the fields, slowly, eating the bones,
Blood drinking, men upon them, new, compete,
Goat bone, sheep blood too, gently now and slow.

The fields fill, the tillers bring up again
Buried air, new, with old blood in them, veins,
Slowgentle the flow, new, on old scars, skin.

Applemouthed dogs as like, or heifers
Fleshcudding, as new, on inherited
Tongues, songs—war still, war, allwar, ungently

And swift, leaching through those old tales, leeching,
History, for new, like unfastened old
Rivers, twists, through the fields, and turns, bloodcropped.

Bucolic II

the wand of sage Wergilius
turns many a magic trick
and given tongues the streams and woods
would surely speak of it
but Herculean though it stands
as proud as elm in leaf
without simple Alexis’ hands
it could but wave itself

The Death of Virgil

[A meagre offering in honour of the birth of Publius Vergilius Maro on this day in 70 BCE.]

Phoebus descends on Megara, beats down
the crops with his coming, anxious so
to see the poet shaping in song
the trip from Troy to Rome;
but the healer in his eagerness falls
in weight too great even for this
mortal of immortal fame, who pales
beneath the gaze of needy gods.

Now from Andes to the Andes Virgil’s dancing
lines, lightfoot and firebright,
sound, but no more the slow voice speaks
fleet Latin, spells the mouth out incantation;
still, folding its bones, from Bangalore, from Beijing
to Brindisi, the sea holds benthic
peacefulness, and all is quietly
full of the sound of surrounding water: heavy
in its depth and gravity, light as light
saturating sky, inseparable, like wind
in air, or woven in sea like the smoky foam
wringing the waving wash; still life
beats on, numbers’ and nature’s forces soaking
the sponge of brain, of skin, of eye, of ear, of lung,
of gill; and still from distant rooftops
twists the smoke—welcome
or war. See them!—
By campfire, farm–fire, hill–fire, men–
at–arms, at ploughs, at pipes,
warming to song.

For God and Crusty

What can the nationalist reply
When reptile naturalists imply
That even mighty Urland’s glory,
Like a mite, is transitory?
The nationalist may one day turn
Quasi-geologist and spurn
Volcanically each rival plate
That preaches its own pompous fate.
“Is it not just that Urmagnia,
Upper crust of old Pangaea,
Ought to rule the lithosphere?—
It’s blessed by God! And Wegener!”
But patriot, however exotic
The limit of your own tectonic—
Though it usurp the uniplace—
Everything is just a phase!

Psychebabble (or, When I die I want to be made into a nice chest of drawers; or, There’s no man speaks better Latin)

Nothing is speaking to human consciousness:
not the gusts of Olympus blustering our brains;
not the gush of the Ganges bubbling our bodies;
not the snowflake stars dusting the black, or the silences between them, no—
we are just talking to ourselves—

Mother: What, Dan?
Me: Nuthin, I was just talkin to meself.
Mother: Well shur ya couldn’t talk to a nicer fella.
(Well, mothers are supposed to love their sons,
and I suppose most of them do.)

No—we are just talking to ourselves,
our brains rustling: crown of thoughts
a crown of leaves, branches spreading in our heads,
rooting down in the dumb limbs,
spine-trunk, root-nerve, sap-blood, leaves
greening and browning and new buds blooming,
fruits and seeds,
breezes the branches make themselves
by growing (a flung violin makes music too),
and “Timmmmburrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”!—

Ah the mouths we all are
Tongue-soft and tooth-hard
Spit-shined and enamelled
But red raw and rotten
Suckling and snapping
Laughing and grinding
Talking to ourselves
(Fill it and fill it—
I’m teaching myself Latin!
But there’s always a hole in the middle)