From ashes spread a plume of smoking guns
rising, billowing, bringing clouds of grief
to hills that bore the weight of sinking suns
… so set a silhouette without relief.
With night’s consent an intangible veil
wrapped itself to the sleeping lay of land,
napped itself in the nooks of dell and dale,
mapped itself to an open show of hand
that by dawn revealed itself as spanning
the breadth of a vast and volatile void
that emptily succumbed to the fanning
of an agent recklessly employed,
destructively deployed, to blackly-blotch
the vigilant sight of an active watch.
Every year invents its own importance;
inflates its credentials, and over-toasts
its claim to ‘best of’ status. In a glance
it’s gone: hot air and a bag full of boasts!
Last year, as with others past, had its share
of miserable moments. Worthy of note
was pestilence – body bags of despair;
climate change – skeptics on a sinking boat;
intolerance – human spirit oppressed;
calamity – with its death toll rising;
corruption – known to those who self-invest;
bloodshed – battles over socialising.
. Take forward, good hope and resolution.
. Leave behind, old rope and retribution.
To the reader: The hype of New Year celebrations verges on the vulgar. As one year becomes the next we mark the moment with pyromanic fervour. In this explosive instant we give birth to resolution. With fireworks as pedigree, is there any wonder the life-expectancy of new commitments is but a short burst of enthusiasm; followed by a quick decay of colour – resolved as a cloud of thin smoke. When hype replaces hope take care.
To the poet: This is the last of my pre-cooked sonnet commentaries. On the first day of January 2015 I resolved to spend a year editing my collection. Without pause, I was running the risk of wasting a good harvest. That pile of “one more” sonnets was stacking-up; consuming any sense of individual character. As of today, I have no more finished sonnets … through sustained resolution, I have beaten the pile!
… used to write observational ditties.
Sunrise anecdotes, as they rose to view.
High-rise moments that could tickle and tease.
Bric-a-brac messages from me to you.
Kept them in a folder, tattered and torn:
My Complete Book of Unfinished Works.
A mixed anthology of statements, sworn
to the master of truth; where danger lurks.
It’s a people watcher’s compendium,
an unbound collection of clever quips:
“slivers of silver – soft as cerium.”
“the tighter one grips – the faster one slips.”
. Life is just a series of thoughts condensed,
. cryptic adages, over days dispensed.
To the reader: Snapshots of life in passing are soon lost to memory. Short-term moments that catch your interest but quickly fade from view. These are the ingredients of doodles and ditties. My notebooks are full of sketchy lines and idle jots; half capturing a fleeting thought. And there’s the problem; at some point, do these bits and pieces make collective sense? Unlike entries in a diary or journal these snippets have a weak relationship with a string of time.
To the poet: Side-by-side two poems will often reflect a shared relationship with the poet’s current experience. As often as not they might also reflect the poet’s quick shift of focus. Some poems make reference to past or recurring interests and therefore resemble poems written in a distant period. In poetry chronology and sequence are quite separate issues… two threads; one rope.
Their grip on life was tenuous at best;
they faced disease, disaster, distortions
of human spirit. They’re laid to rest
in shallow graves – in short-cut proportions.
They were denied the surety of time,
that through age would deliver them their dreams
and wishes. They are the unfinished rhyme,
left to hang – dangling threads and broken seams.
Their length of stay and early departure
leaves a host of unscheduled vacancies
with ‘rooms to let’ but no room to barter
any further bids or contingencies.
. Their absence leaves an emptiness – a void;
. despondency of destiny deployed.
To the reader: In 1976, the first case of Ebola (a viral-hemorrhagic disease of five known types) occurred in Yambuku, a small village of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). To date the largest outbreak of Ebola occurred in 2014; affecting multiple countries throughout West Africa; infecting over 27,000 people and killing more than 11,000. Ebola is a primates’ disease spread by contact with infected carriers; a very effective and efficient killer that consumes the body with rapacious zeal.
To the poet: The size of the 2014 Ebola outbreak took the world by surprise. Consequently, the death toll rose to epidemic proportions. Through the safe lens of a documentary I watched the healthy take care of the sick; and all too often attend to the dead with body bags and shallow graves. The ‘safe lens’ should not provide comfort, it should stir emotions, raise consciousness and press the poet’s pen to paper.
Do not give that poet licence to print.
Trust him with nothing more than a bent quill.
Give him no room to manoeuvre, no hint
of suggestion; no modicum of thrill;
nothing to spill upon a naked page.
Just for his own amusement, he’ll distort
an innocent phrase; blatantly upstage
the messenger with elevated haught.
He’ll brazenly award himself credit
beyond his due; without hesitation,
he’ll tag himself as first to have said it…
Man of Words … with big imagination.
. This ‘Man of Words’ is just a dictionary,
. just a parrot, well-skilled at mimicry.
To the reader: It’s not words that commit the crime; it’s the choice of those words in combination with intent to harm or damage reputation. And so, the shady area of exploitation is encircled by interpretation. The cunning ‘poet’ will cleverly disguise his ambiguous message with layers of obfuscated connotation. Using every trick in the book, he’ll burden the reader with responsibility for word association.
To the poet: The parrot might be able to argue his words should not be taken literally. But, as a poet, you do have to take responsibility for the syntax and semantics of your artistic expression. Your deliberate acts of subtle word-play can cause a mischief that requires remediation; or at least, explanation. Blaming the reader for his/her sensitive interpretation is hardly the act of a chivalrous sonneteer.