Syrian Pastoral

Aleppo

So say you had a farm outside Aleppo
Sown with barrel bombs and sarin gas
And overgrown with isis and al nusra
Now would you flee for life or stay for grass?

Well some brave western columnists and bloggers
Are saying that you should have stayed and fought
When they’d have shit their croissant-crusted trousers
And braved neither the butcher nor the boat.

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The Last Post (A Georgic Blog Epilogue)

[And with a pseudo-georgic flourish I sound my last post on this blog! And my first in quite a while… Think of it as a postscript of sorts to all the other posts, if you like.
        Thank you to my followers, likers, commenters, browsers—all my visitors. Anyone looking for answers can simply consult the good book—Virgil’s Georgics. (Chapter and verse for the browsers: Bk IV, ll. 559–566.)
        Ave atque vale!]

 —Thus I sang the fields of change, the flocks of self,
    While Tsar Trump thundered war across a continent,
    Offering walls to willing men, treading the way
    To white Olympus. I, Daniel, nursed by soft Hibernia,
    Pursued the peaceful paths of poetry, scribbling
    While Rome burned with rabid lust for better things
    And worse. Now you, patiently listening, won’t you sing
    The deep, besieging shade of your own being?

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.

Iphigenia

[A storm arises at the port of Aulis, preventing the Greek fleet from sailing for Troy. Their leader Agamemnon consults the seer Calchas for advise on calming the storm.]

I watch my father. The timely winds of Thrace
Augur hope for those who love him,
Hope that he might not depart us at his brother’s whim.
I see him hear with ashen face
The council of the Seer—is it good
News, no leaving? Or a solution to the storm,
The suggestion of some warm
Libation maybe, wine or blood?

He looks at me—I do not know that face.
Is it one they know who meet
Him in war? With halting pace
Unknown before to striding, kingly feet
He’s moving to the Altar.
Ah! Some god will be appeased,
The clouds will clear and father will go east,
Leaving love behind for slaughter.

He calls to me, the men are quiet.
I do not like their silence or their eyes,
Following me to father. What insight
Can they hope from our goodbyes?

The wind starts whipping harder,
Screaming louder as I reach
Him, screaming round the Praying
Stone, screaming, screaming.
Yes wise wind! Increase! Be greater
Than men’s rashness—keep them beached.

We are embracing. “Ah father,
Do not go to Troy—
Ahhh! Father!”
No! It can’t be…
But my blood is really spilling,
Without me tamely splashing,
And all the men are watching
As the screaming moans to nothing.

Panthera’s Watch

A mess of enemy light this cold Judean sky,
Illuminating goats and the shit of goats.
Why not just darkness when there’s nothing to see?
Can I not lay down my spear and self and sleep
And dream of that girl I took last night?
She smelled of shit, some peasant’s whelp,
And bleated like a goat, but by Mars
I’d favour her again with Roman love.