Dearth of Humanity

This was my entry for the Ekphastic Review challenge inspired by this painting by Fidelio Ponce de Leon. It wasn’t chosen to be published but here it is anyway.

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Dearth of humanity

 

 

There are some places in this world

Where ghosts walk daylit streets, the trackless

Famine fields and cotton fields,

Between sugar canes and potato stalks.

Human misery in shrouded white

Of rotting once-was-food now putrid blight,

Stalks the dark and comfortless night

Children’s hollow eyes the only light.

Bought and sold or simply left to rot,

Unwanted weeds in a neat suburban plot,

They haunt us still, or should if we have hearts.

The legacy of blind profit, abundant paunch

For some and padded cushioned ease until the grave,

For others bone-white lassitude and shrivelled hope,

Weary of waiting for the end,

Of dragging rattling skin from dawn to dusk.

Humanity is passion-fire not graveworm, maggot-bland,

Yet our children, grown from tender seed to budding flower,

Shrink into wind-blown dust, ground into desert sand

Microfiction: Revolution

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After bringing war to the gates of the capital, the king, taking his heir and his most valued advisors floated in his specially commissioned Montgolfier high out of range of the guns and safely over the heads of the besieging army. The people murmured angrily. They were starving and the enemy offered no quarter, except on one condition, which the king had effectively sabotaged.

His wife watched the Montgolfier, draped in the royal colours, as it grew smaller and smaller against the sky. She had stayed with her children, the expendable ones, and the people. Not out of duty—she was a mother, not a soldier—but out of love for the babies, her own and those of all the mothers trapped in the city who would not fit in the Montgolfier. Albert had nodded solemnly when she told him of her decision, but she noticed his eyes shift anxiously to the clouds and the storm rolling in from the plains. He itched to be gone.

He was gone now. So small she couldn’t even see him. And little Albert would be cowering on the floor of the basket with his hands over his head in all probability. For a moment, the smoke from a bursting shell hid the balloon, and she held her breath. It must be close to the hills by now. The smoke cleared. The Montgolfier hung in the sky over the highest peak, low enough to…

She gripped the rifle harder and raised her hand in sign of farewell. She didn’t hear, but she saw the flash of the mortar instants before the balloon exploded. The image of a pale little boy flashed through her mind, the child she had never been allowed to love, but her eyes hardened, and she raised the rifle high.

“The rebels have him!” she shouted, and watched with bitter satisfaction the expression of utter astonishment of the troops on the walls. She waited for the wave of cheering from the people to die down before she added, “Send out an envoy to the enemy. We can give them what they want. It is time to sue for peace.”

A general stormed and blustered, but was overpowered before he could speak. Another ordered his adjutant to shoot her down, but a bullet in the back of the general’s head stayed the adjutant’s hand before he drew the pistol. She stood on the palace wall and stared across the sea of hungry people and her lips set in a determined line. They would have justice. If Albert survived the crash, he would pay for his war, her loveless life, the pale child. And she would not shed a single tear.

Microfiction: Puppy love

For Charli Mills’ flash fiction prompt—erosion

Photo ©Jiel Beaumadier

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I hate the pet section in the supermarket, the corner where frightened, sick babies curl up in glass tanks waiting to die. I hear the kid before I see him, dancing around his mother, tugging at her arm, screaming IwannaIwannaIwanna. They’re in front of the puppies. She’s shaking her head in a not very convincing way. I pass them again, on the way to the check out. The kid’s war dance is getting hysterical. She’s dithering, weary. I know how it will end, the only imponderable, how long before her patience cracks and she dumps it on the street.

Refugees

Painting by Friedrich Karl Ströher

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How so calm the sea,
When so much death lies beneath its billows?
How so silent the sky,
That echoed surely with last anguished cries?
No waves watch death come, with cold, impassive eyes,
Nor does the sky hear and disregard the pleading.
Beneath the rising and the setting of moon and sun,
Rolling in the ebb and flow of endless tides,
Is all of life and death and the easing of pain.
Ocean swells, silk-smooth and tranquil as a shroud,
Cradling the lost in its vast, implacable tenderness,
Gathering up the misery no one wants,
And gulls bear whispers in their strong white wings,
Memories soft as swansdown,
To soar beneath other, gentler skies.

Harbinger

This morning various things are taking their toll; sparkle and enthusiasm are sadly lacking. In fact, today I feel proper poorly. I wanted to do a cover release today for the Green Woman trilogy, but will wait to see if I feel like cracking open the Prosecco later.

In the meantime, this is a poem I wrote yesterday as the heat wave was getting into gear.

Bian_Jingzhao-Four_Magpies

Magpie,

Chinese kite,

Bad augur,

Fluttering flight straining,

Despite broad-feathered wings,

A blot in the blue sky,

Coarse-voiced,

Carrion-seeker,

Nest-plunderer.

My heart contracts at the portent,

But in all the wide sky,

Are no other eyes but mine

Fixed on the piebald harbinger,

The bad luck falling upon other heads?

And if I turn away pretend not to see?

Amadou asleep beneath the bridge

Sees nothing but the searing dream-sun of home,

The junkie trembles as he finds the vein,

Sightless on the bank of flowing beauty

And the delicate overarching tracery of the poplars.

Magpie cries,

Scattering anathema

That falls like poisoned rain,

Through the leaves of the cherry trees

Leaving no one unstained.

On the street

She’s there again
The young woman
Lying on the step
Her face looks red and puffy
Despite the tan colour of her skin.
Beer cans roll in the gutter,
And her rucked up sleeve reveals
A host of track marks on her arms.
But her clothes are good
And when she speaks
It isn’t in a helpless babble.
There is a hardness to her
As though she’s pressed the self-destruct
And I wonder what he did to her
That makes her care for nothing
But oblivion.

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