The Carver

The carver’s father was a carver and
From him he learned his trade spending his youth
In careful constant study of the craft.
And when his mother died his father carved
Her likeness, delicate, precise in beech,
His last creation, for the father followed
Succumbed at last, the same cruel plague beset
His aged body. So the son then carved
His sire in solid oak to stand beside
His mother, ever watchful household guards.
Soon after he did marry and was not
Unhappy for a time. But their first child
Was born as still as night before the dawn
And so he carved another figure far
Before its time, one he had hoped not ever
To carve. The tiny babe thus joined his dear
Departed ancestors. The years did pass.
Two more had died as infants, illness sent
Them down below. A son, so hale and hardy,
Both Sleep and Death in war did seize one day.
The next their daughter; childbirth sealed her fate.
Beech, oak, ash, walnut, alder, elm, and birch.
Thus seven stood together, constant needless
Reminders of the certain toll of life
In condign payment for Death’s temp’ral loan.
The carver and his wife did know each other’s
Pain, and so well, unspoken it remained.
Each was the other’s tether, tying each
To life. The wife was stronger and endured
But in the dark of night the figures seemed
To call to him and promise peace at last.
But when she died, he carved her true to life
For forty days and night rememb’ring their
Now forty years together. He would work
Now frantic, sending shavings like fall leaves
Upon the floor, now still and cutting not
But merely looking for his wife within
The wood. The day of labor’s final blow,
Marauding soldiers, hair in mats, eyes sunk,
Did drag the carver from his hovel and
Demand due payment for his life. Said he:
“I have no coin nor wealth, nothing to give
And not one thing save for my trade
And home.” And so his house they burned in sport
And broke his hand. The carver sat there mute
As greedy flames consumed the final piece
Of house and home. There ev’ry moment sweet
And bitter. Grim but smiling he did draw
To him his mother, father, children, wife
In one final embrace, and purged the hope
Of seeing them again here or hereafter.
He carved a figure crude and bent with age
And cares and, placed upon the smold’ring pile,
He walked away into the forest deep.

The Nest

The girl did look so wistful at the nest,
Still dead and bare among new leaves and green,
And hoped that soon some bird would come to rest,
A home to make where tender chicks might preen.
Eschewing old for new a robin came
Bearing mere bits of grass and twig and cord
And jumbled them together as a frame
Til warp and weft at last came to accord.
The girl the bird then watched so steadfast, still,
As days did pass to bring two eggs so blue.
On silent watch never the bird did trill,
To keep a vigil and guard life so new.
Now she is gone; the nest empty save hoar.
She spreads her wings and hopes not, evermore.


O Time, the constant drumbeat, seconds, hours,
Despised abandoner, slipping away,
Who takes from us all, wastes and devours,
Eater of worlds and men, of that which may
Be, was, and is, who brings companion Death,
The end of Nature’s course. But why so hated
And feared, O Time? Alone with bated breath
They wait, the fearful, static, ever fated
To die while watching sands run. But a friend
To all dynamic, active, drinking deep
The good that Time does bring and not pretend
To have or want eternity to reap.
Eternity degrades life, Death inspires.
Only abandoned is he that Time fires.

The Farmer’s War

When Winter has released the earth at last,
Her frigid grasp undone and strength now past,
And winds do change and call the flagging Sun
To warm the soil, then may your oxen run
And strain beneath the yoke that guides the plow’s
Sharp keel, to churn the ground beneath the boughs
Of spreading elm and beech. Seek not their shade
To rest and play the shepherd’s pipes, no aid
To farmer’s work. So churn the ground and break
The yielding clods of earth, now tamed, to make
A home for Spring among the scattered seeds.
For there is little that is for man’s needs
By Nature made, spontaneous, unbidden.
Thus, lest we want and starve, the power hidden
Must every farmer’s hard labor release
In constant war, a battle without peace.
Beware revanchist Winter now returns,
As snow now falls and deadly frost then burns,
To snuff the newly scattered seed of life
And choke the land with one last snow, a knife
Held to its throat. But Spring she meets on high
And goddess Spring, shield girt, sword drawn, asks ‘Why?’
To which says Winter, ‘Naught else can I do.’
And battle joined deadly Spring runs her through.
As white-robed Winter falls, stained by the blow,
The farmers watch, transfixed by the tableau
Of heaven’s strife, and bow to fate’s demand
Ever to shape, to till, to work Spring’s land.


Down, down the deep hole,
Down the burning wrath,
Down the dispersing soul,
Down the mind’s dark path.

Down to the depths of the sea,
Down the executioner’s axe,
Down the towering tree,
Down to pay death’s tax.

Down the ancient throne,
Down to the sunless gloom,
Down the crumbling bone,
Down to meet your doom.

Up, up, Orpheus, along the track,
Up, Orpheus, and don’t look back.

Up the wandering way,
Up the kingdom high,
Up to the light of day,
Up to the dawning sky.

Up to life’s domain,
Up the soul’s power,
Up to the green plain,
Up to rebuild the fallen tower.

Up to time’s lease,
Up to the fair glen,
Up to strife and peace,
Up to live again.

On Hardship

The days and weeks pass unaccounted for,
uncounted. What was yesterday? What is
today? To live is to sleep-walk through life
for most, to wait for life to happen as
a thousand days slip through your fingers once
and twice, again and repeated until
the end. For others, life is lived and seized
for every opportunity and chance
to ‘do’ life and then, ultimately, death.
But for us all what is it that remains
when we look back? There stands luminescent,
eternal, undiminished by time’s flow
the memory of the hardships of life:
injustice, war, privation, grief, loss, death,
the times of struggle for others, for cause
and purpose greater than our selfish wants,
that brought us closer to strangers, and made them
strangers no longer. For the friendship, the
new bond forged in the camps, in the trenches,
on tired picket lines, in shared black grief,
though temporary, goes beyond the tie
of mere acquaintance during times peaceful
and plentiful. So seek out challenge and
shun ease and leisure, better to prepare
yourself. And when your test, your hardship comes,
as to us all it must, meet it head-on
with eyes wide and heart steeled for if you live
your suffering, your triumphs, your failures
you will never forget and you will stand
in the awareness of what already
you have endured, steadfast and resolute.

Just Give Up

Why try when you will surely fail? You won’t
succeed but disappoint them all and be
yourself most disappointed by failure.
You cannot fail if you do not try, you
can live without the sharp discomfort of
failure, serene, at peace, in comfort, wrapped
in the embrace of timid inaction.
So come, give up, give in and join me down
among the lifeless living sleep-walking
in the mire, staring out with bulbous eyes
watching the world like gaping fish in tanks
we made. So come and join us. Just give up.

Do As I Say

Clean your room, clean your plate
Go to school, sit up straight.
Wash your ears, wash your head
Do your work, go to bed.
Get a job, be on time
Obey the law, fall in line.
Pay your taxes, give to charity
Pull yourself up or live in austerity.
Don’t smoke, don’t drink
Don’t joke, don’t think.
Who said you could speak?
You’ve got some cheek.
Me? Of course I went to school.
A job? No, I’m not a fool.
Taxes? I have accountants for that.
The law? I have lawyers for that.
Now fuck off and do as I say.
Don’t question me or I’ll dock your pay
Fire you, put you on the street
And leave you with nothing to eat.
Now, I think I need a drink or two
It’s okay for me but not for you.

Where are you?

Where are you wand’ring and where did you go?
Why have you gone so soon? A brief moment
among the living, never seeing daylight.
And now, forever closed, your eyes milky
and gray, not ever opened by your will.
Where are you wand’ring? Under some distant
alien sun? Or by the moon’s pale light?
Perhaps you linger down among the great
multitudes under the pall of the dead.
Or do you walk an endless road between
the serried cypresses that nod in time?
Have you come back to us across Lethe’s
dark banks or yet wait, only to return
long years hence when I have joined that dim herd?
Do you exist only in my black mind
as firing charges of memory, as
mere flashes bursting in the inky black
illuminating the ghosts of the past?
My boy, where are you? Who have you become?
What do you want or need? Do you have dreams
or do you dream forever only in
my mind, to be extinguished when I die?
Not while I hope a selfish hope, a fool’s,
a hopeless hope to see you once more though
you have gone where I cannot follow, where
one day when time has turned to dust I will
find you and you will open your new eyes
and I will see the light within and know
you, where imagination dwells and gives
false hope to the anguished and the hopeless,
like honey on the bitter cup of life.