Feathered Misfortune

What came first, the bird, or the egg?
Well, I spotted the dead pigeon on Monday night
As I was walking down the embankment
Trying not to breathe too many fumes
Still shivering from an over-chilled office
And shocked at the sight of mangled grey feathers,
A broken neck and damaged wings
I wondered if it had been hit by a vehicle
Or disorientated, had flown beak-first
Into a mirrored tower block
Before plummeting to the pavement below.
I had no answers. Nor did anyone seem
Too interested in the fate
Of an earthbound, flying sky-rat.
I walked home, pondering
The funeral rites of a feathered pest.
The next day, passing the other way
I saw it was still there.
Must have been missed by the road sweepers
Or deliberately ignored as someone else’s problem.
That evening, Tuesday after work
I felt sure someone would have mentioned it
And had the bird disposed of
But no.
Nudged off the pavement into the gutter
At the side of the road
Still a crumpled heap. Grey feathers dirty
From the road dust and oil residue.
I walked on.
By Wednesday evening, the bird was gone.
This morning, I took a different route to work
Staying on the bus to the museum
Then walking the few blocks North to the river.
As I passed under a bridge, I saw an egg
Shell cracked, yolk scattered on the ground
Dirty down feathers floating
While trains rattled above, shaking the shadows
A lone pigeon fluttered overhead
As if mourning their loss.

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.

Dead Flowers

Though I am fond of
An eponymous song by the Rolling Stones
I have a lifelong dislike of dead flowers
Their brittle stems a stiff reminder
That everything we look upon
Is doomed

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

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

That’s OK! (by me)

Never try to date musicians
Actors, players or politicians
All who make fame their lifelong mission
Feel compelled to keep ambition

Uppermost in their mind’s eye.
Resisting those whose hopes may lie
In other kinds of pie-filled sky,
Aspire to happiness: decry

The complex marketing campaigns
To fill your dreams with endless strains
Of violins, and chilled champagne
(Someone is selling something vain)

You’re not obliged to join, partake
In putting out, appearing, fake
So falsely cheerful, on the make
We don’t all want the same big break

And there are many paths to tread
That do less harm and keep you fed
You could just read a book instead
To fill your soul, first fill your head

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.

Human Rights

Rectitude and moral maze
Seem like to meet their end of days
In hands of saint whose might has ways
Of punishing our own delays

While failure to address unknowns
Has sold what titles to our moans
Could yet be called mere gifts or loans
With careful words we’ll leave these zones

Ally ourselves to no more men
And disbelieve reports of when
The road to peace was better ken
Of others’ culture, sword and pen

The velvet curtain will hold fast
And legislation will bow past
Poor sight-impaired judicial mast
Whose figure seems to fade, aghast

As scales are stripped of balanced view
No counterpoint, but reference, new
Established as alternate to
Our older values, now too few

To understand the loss we face
Try to supplant a lesser place
And see the bold, inhuman race
Condemn all pity, justice, grace

Awakening at last, too late
The image of our fellows’ fate
With little thought and careless hate
We’ll watch our own asphyxiate.