Tied Hands

I wish I could help
But I can’t, I can’t
I lack the autonomy,
Forced to plant
My feet on the bars
Of this creaking fence
And dole out excuses
Of common sense

Winnipeg

Cry me a red, red river
A river of dust and bones
Of hearts that bleed and shiver
From broken and bruising homes

Blow me a kiss of willow
To echo a mourner’s moan
The ache of an empty pillow
Another child’s fate unknown

Cry me a red, red river
To fold me within its bed
And comfort the cares that slither
Through thoughts of unending dread

Bring me a message, finding
Too late what you had to face
My anger a knot, a binding
A coiling of thoughts that race

Cry me a red, red river
Reflecting a distant star
A chorus of souls, a quiver
That calls to me from afar

Paint me a cold moon rising
Surrounded by frozen waste
Still warmed by a hatred, blinding
For victims that leave no space

Cry me a red, red river
From words that no longer mean
An end to the dreams that linger
Its path a forgotten scream

Soothe me to sleep through Winter
To wake in the roar of Spring
With gifts that are carved to splinter
Where birds cannot bear to sing

Cry me a red, red river
And lay there upon this shore
The past where I long to wither
And hold you again, once more

This was written for the Red River Women.

Last one standing

When they came by
For a cupful of sugar
Took my old man
And waltzed over the hill

I was still standing
Polishing silver
Gonna be standing
Forever, until…

Next time a caller
I’d hoped would be smaller
Tripped on her doorstep
Got carried away

I was still standing
To see to a Mother
Gonna keep standing
Another long day

One time you told me
That things never mattered
Half the amount I
Pretended to say

I was still standing
Alone with no lover
Not understanding
Which words made you stay

Then they came by
With a warrant for searching
Hoping to find
What I’d hidden away

I was still standing
In need of your comfort
No one to hear me
And nothing to say

Turn from the shadows
If you fear to follow
All those who greet us
And pass on their way

I am still standing
Myself and no other
One day I’ll falter
But never today

Flounce, Fluff and Flattery

There is a world of difference
Between those who seek the
Company of women
To bask in it
Hanging on their every thought
As one transported
By the beauty
Of a strange and fantastical mind
And those who fancy
A quick in-and-out
Ego-boost before
Zipping their feelings,
Upping sticks and moving on
To the next conquest.

The difference is obvious
Even to the most casual observer:
One is the stuff of
Fantasy and freedom
Of late-night talks
And deep discussions
Long philosophising over
Personal projections
Maybe with a bit of
Barefoot dancing
And a casual pinch of laughter
Thrown in for good measure.

On encountering the other,
I will take the lonely
High road to nowhere
Hiking in stupid, pretty,
Too-tight shoes
Risking my own skin
To preserve sanity
Rather than share transportation,
Food or drink
In exchange for temporary
Flat-footed flattery
With bondage-grade
Strings attached.

I enjoy womanisers
Who enjoy women
In all their complexity,
But have no time
For bed-notch chasing
Egotists with
Straw for brains
And cloth for ears.

Head of State

Alone is his pyjamas
After the sycophants
Are all in their beds
The dictator, silent
Examines his image
By moonlight
Wrinkles and lines
Cratered temples
And soft-joweled planes
Surrounded by wealth
In the marbled rooms
Of a haunted palace
He did not inherit
But strives to display
To best advantage
For diplomatic reasons
Dreaming of leaner,
Keener days
Before he became
A political prisoner
Trapped and tamed
By the violent success
Of his own actions

Indiscriminate Despair

A million subtle put-downs
In a thousand different ways
A wasted opportunity
Career path gone astray

A couple of promotions too
That went to someone else
With not as much experience
Nor vision, knowledge, skills

Adjusting one’s ambition
‘Til it fits within the norm
A lukewarm lover’s mission
To accept what still goes on

We breed another row
Of middle-rankers in our turn
Forgetting what we wanted
Was the change we couldn’t earn

Comparabolic Religion

Under the same Abrahamic rite
Why is it one tribe must shoulder blame
For all the ills our tongues in spite
May mutter, hiss, jibe, joke, proclaim

Can all those bearing guiding star
And shunned as less than fully hale
In truth be held as such they are
Accountable by any scale

From other creeds and careful groups
And once again, ill fated, mean
Cast out as ‘other’…  Story loops
Unfit to mingle, foul, unclean

How are we in point of fact
In any way so different
When we all, with lesser tact
Live and die with base intent

Dogma and self-interest
Returning fellows to their clay
Here with darkness in our breast
We’ll charge along this alleyway

Now ignorance and cruelty
False, Godless words have spat to shine
We in our turn may twist and see
Of those whose creed does not match mine

Our own ideals overturned
With harsh contempt, disowned, decried
And know ourselves as those who earned
The scaffold built when first we lied

And chose to follow to this end
The unrefined, archaic lore
Hanging decisions on the bend
Of what worked once some years before

To weigh as wanting one who had
An equal claim to all the Earth
As we ourselves who in our greed
Conspired to steal more than our worth

Ah, Palmyra

We care more for ancient ruins
And destruction wrought on tombs
By whatever means they may
Than for lives that end today

While the blood and flesh and bone
Leaving everything they own
To escape the latest purge
Travel desert, sea and gorge

Those who voyage only land
On their uppers, close at hand
To the help they sorely need
Yet the politicians plead

Not to have to break their word
To the xenophobic horde
Those whose votes they barely won
From the hardened right, anon

Thus with bottle-necks and fence
We corral and harry hence
Workers that we sure could use
Grateful, welcome, unabused

Skilled and keen to integrate
To prop up our ageing State
In permissive company
Knowing just who let them be

As the fight takes to the skies
And the waves fill up with lies
We would throw away resource
Inconvenient and coarse

With no tally of the cost
Nor of what support is lost
Though our leaders might feel tall
While our borders stand, we fall

Calais

Sangatte to Jungles
Our government mumbles
Responses to nations’
Incoming migrations

Now paperwork hoarders
Are challenged by boarders
In Eurostar tunnels
And motorway funnels

They’re stoning the crowd
Burning tyres, leaping loud
Until lorries are loaded
All holds are allowed

This stowaway stream
Set on chasing a dream
Shows no signs of slowing
Or stopping, but growing

Their numbers increasing
To challenge policing
We’re caught at the port
Over which we have fought

Now our tourists are static
Behind much stacked traffic
They’re losing their reason
In holiday season

As cars packed with kids
See their fun on the skids
With the clock ticking down
Mum and dad due in town

Though we hoped to ignore
Swimmers washing ashore
Counting costs in big bribes
And the loss of small lives

In a bid for asylum
We’d like to deny them
Perhaps we may find
What they’re leaving behind

Deserted and abandoned youth

Choose certain death and ostracism
Exile self-imposed; ‘tradition’
Loss of home and family
Born of faith’s supremacy

So young, with minds not fully fed
In fear of first missteps, unled
Some seek to live by others’ rules
And hope to never have to choose

While those whose choice was thrust upon
Unwary shoulders, far too young
Have just enough experience
To recognise their own good sense

And knowing that some errors will
Occur despite intentions, still
Are less afraid to persevere
And build the life they want right here.

Though actions have their aftermath
There is no righteous, clear-cut path
Please do not fear all consequence
Change is not dangerous; though dense

And unenlightened elders may
Feel life no longer goes their way
As age and distance emphasise
The loss of youth before sad eyes

Unready to relinquish reins
To those in throes of growing pains.
Decisions to abandon trust
Give up hope and freedoms; lust

For life of lesser contemplation
Out of social obligation;
Turn to ends more violent
Ignore suggestions, kindly meant

And quick condemn all other views –
Is this the path you wish to choose?
Consider this, before you do
For truly, this choice rests with you:

Such suicide invites abuse
Of others that may follow blood
For love, for family, for feud
Will throw themselves away; – jihad

In mourning for those gone before
Their minds made waste, still immature
And more than one will idolise
The first to die – if death you prize

Above the life you hold in hand
So understand, if you have planned
To be the martyr for your tribe
And leave the others still alive

The minute you take up this course
Imagining rewards; Firdaws
You lose control of what is shown
And once you’ve gone, the whole thing’s blown:

With ashes scattered over sand
Your image will be used to brand
Misinformation into truth –
Deserted and abandoned youth.