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.

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

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.

Oma says

Little old ladies dressed all in black
Carry great loads on their rock-solid backs
So next generation may learn how to play
They work ’til they drop and are carried away

Little old ladies have little to lose
They’ve time to be gentle and courage to choose
May praise what achievements are worthy of love
And prod at the arses in need of a shove

Little old ladies can lead from behind
Obedient offspring (it’s all in the mind)
The strength of the nation all summed in a phrase
“Old wives’ hands hold answers”, or so Oma says.

Revolution

History tells us
That coups are romantic
Tight breeches and open shirts
Flesh on display

But somehow historians
Seem to gloss over
The blood, guts and gore
Spilled as change rules the day

In marketplace, schoolroom
And under the blankets
The hard-headed, downtrodden
Protesters pray

For those seeking justice
Surrounded by forces
With too much to lose
To just give it away

The Flower of Womanhood

I am well and truly over
This annoying, messy phase
Where I daren’t wear pale fabrics
And I shower thrice a day

All protective products pointless
As it oozes t’ward my feet
I awake to pools of gruesome
Craving sleep without red sheets

When my skin feels slick and shiny
With more oil than fries a bird
I anticipate resignedly
Soon the flag will be unfurled

I shall suffer through the heatwave
Of my ovaries in bloom
As they fire off a salvo
Twinges presaging the gloom

Days of darkness, swathed in layers
Extra undies in my bag
At each trickling sensation
Quick! Hi-tail it to the lav’

To expunge in corporate bathroom
All the evidence of gore
I ignore my bio function
Still, my womb knows what it’s for

With the monthly mad reminder
That just living hurts like hell
As my tender flesh needs kinder
Treatment than it gets; oh well.

From the first time I encountered
This botanical event
In my leotard and dance tights
Feeling put upon and spent

To the day I see my organs
Ripped hysterically from me
Doctor’s orders and direction
Leaving nothing more to see

I must buy, gift-wrapped in plastic
Wads of cotton, scented ‘pure’
Knowing no tidy blue fluids spilled
From beakers will ensure

Any comfort, fresh or dryness
As I waddle through the day
Too resentful, bloody, mindless
Forcing cervix to obey

Hope another piece of plastic
In my battered, spattered jeans
May exceed historic precedent
Protecting seat and seams

But the flower swells within me
And it cannot be denied
I’m a woman, well and truly
Scrubbing gussets ’til I die

Mother

A beacon in whom we all believe, shining there above and below us. Gentle calloused hands stirring the waters, the well. Fountain of my youth and mirror of my dotage.

Veins standing proud, swelled with age, pride, scientific mysticism… chemicals. Inscrutable lines mark the outward planes, invisible chasms mar the landscape within. Danger lurks there.

Inevitably we shall all succumb and return to what we always sought to find. Back to the womb. But the inner comfort and security of those walls has given way to an external terror.

And the prodigal becomes the fruitful. Plenty springs from what was barren desert, and the circle begins once more.