Stranded

This is the first poem I wrote specifically to submit for publication in a poetry journal. It was refused, so you all get to enjoy it instead, as well as the good people at superversiveSF.

Stranded

Stranded on a pinnacle, surrounded by a throng
Of the vilest creatures known from story, myth or song.
He led them on a merry dance when things got out of hand,
Out here to this lonely peak, amidst this barren land.

His radio is long-since smashed, his ammo’s running low,
His jetpack is all out of charge, discarded in the snow.
He’s improvised and struggled hard to keep the hordes at bay;
With no rocks left, it looks as if he won’t survive the day.

Hiding has proved futile, they smell his sweat and fear,
Their bony claws pierced through his armour, slashing his right ear.
His arms are getting heavy, his eyelids won’t stay up,
He sees bug reinforcements and his head begins to drop.

They cover the horizon, the ground squirms as they swarm,
The only thing that held them back was a great ice storm.
But now the winds are calming, they start their new ascent,
The screech of claws upon bare slate is homing on his scent.

He shivers as he stands again to face the warrior drones,
Debilitating cold and dread both pierce his weary bones.
He pictures all those he bought time to reach a safer place,
From where they could at last find peace and meet a friendly face.

He smiles to think of Sylvia enjoying motherhood,
Raising four kids and a dog beside a sleepy wood.
Jason, Mick and Frank will all be standing in salute,
As his beloved plays a mournful song on her old flute.

They’ll join their voices with the choir that sings a solemn hymn
Beside the lasting monument with which they’ll honour him.
They’ll talk about the good old times, the laughs, the games, the pranks,
Then raise their glasses in a toast to show their debt of thanks.

Then go on to enjoy the lives that he has won for them,
Each moment of sweet liberty more precious than a gem.
Just metres now and one clip left, he adds to the great heap
Of insectoid carcasses that fill the chasm deep.

With no regard for brotherhood, they trample on their own,
Fearlessly and ravenously scale that pile of bone.
His rifle clicks dead one last time, they do not pause or slow,
He catches one last glimpse of sunset’s amber afterglow,

Then all around him falls a flood of piercing metal rain,
Roaring jets and blinding searchlights drive them back again.
Pistons hiss and cargo bay doors open to his right;
Half-thinking this is all a dream, he steps into the light.

They wrap him in a blanket, and soar into the sky,
For the first time in a month his hands and head are dry.
“They’ll nuke the site from orbit as soon as we are clear,
And turn that vicious army to a sterile glassy smear.”

“How did you find me way out here? My radio was gone.”
“This was the seventh mountain range that we’ve explored since dawn.
We’ve scoured half the planetoid, all looking for your heat;
We couldn’t just leave you behind, there’s someone you should meet.”

The lovely face of Sylvia appears on a small screen,
She looks to him as if she’s just been crowned a beauty queen.
“Thank God you’re out, I couldn’t bear the thought that you were lost,
After all you did for us, and what your courage cost.

“I found the letter that you left, I really didn’t know
How much our friendship meant to you, you let so little show.”
“You weren’t supposed to read that, it was only if I didn’t—“
She puts a finger to her lips, he meekly takes the hint.

“You said you hoped I’d find a man that’s faithful, honest, good;
With whom to raise a family, who’d treat me as he should.
I know of one,” She beams a smile so full of joy and life,
Then says the words he’s longed to hear: “I’d love to be your wife!”

The Hill

In ancient times this sacred hill did nourish weary souls
A nobleman once stood here and declared “We’ve reached our goals.”
The land I see from this high place is fertile, watered, green;
Here we can carve out a life that’s safe and most serene.

Houses and small villages can be marked out and built
Fields planted in this thick dark soil enriched with rain and silt.
A fortress to defend our young and old upon that ridge
Looking down upon that great wide river that we’ll bridge

Nine centuries of legend have grown upon this mound
It’s viewed as a great pilgrimage to almost holy ground
Parents with their precious children come here to retrace
The steps of him who gave his name to this enchanted place

Some young are not so keen to climb the steep paths up the hill
Some even lose heart so much as to make themselves quite ill,
Insisting they have not the strength to even reach its base
With wails and whines and tears that keep on streaming down their face.

The father makes the effort to snap his son out of it
Not letting despair win the day, not letting his boy quit
With gritted teeth they climb the slope part way and then they rest
Seeing that his son has so far been doing his best.

Then son decides upon a plan that takes his dad aback
To take a shortcut up the hill far from the concrete track.
The spirit of adventure lives and glows from his young face
Dad can only follow, barely keeping up his pace.

They reach the top, exultant, son has grown his mind and heart;
He’s learned of all that he can do, if only he would start.
Great obstacles now hold less fear, as he knows that he can,
He’s taken one small step towards becoming a young man.

Imagine God

My apologies for the delay, the summer heat has caused an eye irritation that means I cannot look at text on a screen for long without a lot of discomfort, so we’ll see how soon before I can write anything else.

In the meantime, this is what got me started as a poet, and made me realise I might have some talent for poetry, much to my surprise. The situation that brought this experiment about is not a happy one.

For the first year of my marriage, we lived in a rented flat, and our landlord was a young man in his late twenties, living with his girlfriend on the floor above us. He was killed in a car crash about halfway through our tenancy, and we of course attended his funeral. It was the most depressing event I have ever attended, utter despair written into the faces of everyone in his family at such a promising life cut so tragically short, and one of the songs played over his open grave was ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon/Yoko Ono.

I was probably the only native English speaker at the funeral, so I’d like to think that whoever chose that song didn’t understand it, only knowing that he had liked it. I remember thinking at the time that it was a terrible song for a funeral, since its message is one of forsaking all hope for the next life in exchange for some presumed happiness in this one.

It is a beautiful haunting melody, so I set about writing some alternative lyrics that would be close to the original wording while transforming its message into one of genuine hope. Here is the result:

Continue reading

The Darkest Day

 

The one on whom we pinned our hopes is now forever gone;
His broken, twisted corpse has shown all witnesses Rome won!
His promises of life and mercy clearly all a fraud,
Hide and lock yourselves away before you face a vicious sword!

What was he thinking? When they came he told us not to fight,
He surrendered with such calm, as if he controlled that night.
We could have made a break for it and seen another day,
With all the wonders that he worked, there had to be another way…

When he merely said his name, they all fell to the ground,
Wasn’t he supposed to clear the temple then be crowned?
Clearly not, no king would choose to die the way he did,
When morning comes it will be time that we all fled and hid.

Deny you ever knew him, or you’ll share his shameful fate;
Our home towns might just take us back, if it’s not too late.
Our women want to see the tomb, embalm his body right,
There they go, despite the gloom of dawn’s approaching light…