Flying to Byzantium and beyond

I liked the image for the last Ekphrastic prompt and wrote several poems to it. You can read the selected poems here. This is one of my (unsuccessful) contributions.

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There are fish in the sea that fly on silver fins

and birds in the air that swim with sea-smooth wings.

 

There is gold in the light and silver in the night

and green weed, a forest in deep water.

 

There are banners in the wind that call to prayer

and prayers in the wind that call to the banners.

 

Fish, birds, sunlight gold and streaming weed dance

on the blackberry path, for they know not what they do,

 

unlike the wind that waves the banners that point the

way to the black oil-slicked darkness at the world’s end.

Creation

On Saturday, the Ekphrastic Review published a short piece of mine based on this painting, Schöpfungsgeschichte II  (Creation Story) by Franz Marc. He painted it in 1914. By 1916 he was dead, killed by a shell at the battle of Verdun.

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Thank you Ekphrastic for giving my poetry and prose a home with a window.

You can read it here

Guernica

Ronovan asks for a poem inspired by Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica. The image below is a mural inspired by the painting in the Falls Road, Belfast.

Photo ©Ross

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Nothing changes.

Robotic brains create and annihilate

indiscriminately—

lion, horse, sparrow,

your wife, her husband, their children.

Lessons of history?

There are none to be learned.

History records not teaches;

we know what we do,

we revel in the blood of the other.

The fire that fell out of the sky still falls,

applauded by the same hands,

anointed by the same dogmas.

Man, the apocalypse,

Je Suis Cronus,

Uranus, Saturn,

parricides, infanticides

and so much blood,

these hands,

though the oceans they incarnadine,

will never be washed clean.

 

The dark falls quickly

A pantoum for the dverse prompt. This one turned out rather ghostly.

 

The dark falls quickly at this time of year,

When winter clings beneath the leafless trees,

Where in the twilight flit like ghosts the deer,

And dead leaves rustle in the spring-sharp breeze.

 

When winter clings beneath the leafless trees,

I listen for the sound of cracking ice

And dead leaves’ rustle. In the spring-sharp breeze

I think I hear a sound, still imprecise—

 

I listen for the sound of cracking ice.

Though nothing stirs yet in the night-clear air,

I think I hear the sound still imprecise

Of laughter, our voices free of care.

 

Though nothing stirs yet in the night-clear air,

I feel your presence wrapping me in waves

Of laughter, our voices free of care.

A sea of grief rolls now, and fields of graves

 

I feel your presence, wrapping me in waves

Of twilight, where like ghosts they flit, the deer,

And grief, a sea rolls over fields of graves.

The dark falls quickly at this time of year.

The bells of hell

For the Secret Keeper’s five word prompt. We watched Oh What A Lovely War last night and the satire and poignancy was as keen as ever.

 

Bell voices ring

for the stolen ones

and their lost without trace

ghostly voices sing.

Their betters bid them serve

for their kin and king,

said for those who do their duty

death has no sting.

So they went and they died

and we watched them fly

with their white crosses

and their poppies

when their souls took wing,

but Haig like French

died peaceful in his bed,

like the stories of the millions

of expendable dead.

Le dormeur du val

I’m reposting this poem by Rimbaud and my translation, written last year, in a small tribute to the victims of war.

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This is a poem all my children learnt by heart at primary school. And strangely enough, they all loved it. I don’t know much French verse but I do like this one. Here is the original poem, by Arthur Rimbaud, courtesy of Poésie française, followed by my attempt at a translation.

Le dormeur du val

C’est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière,
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D’argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c’est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l’herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine,
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

 

 

The sleeper in the valley

 

There’s a haven of green where the river loud,

Clasps raggedy banks and between them teams

Silver; where sun over mountains proud,

Shines: a small vale brimming bright with beams.

 

A young soldier, lips parted, cap in the grass,

His head bathed in the damp of blue cress stalks tall,

Sleeps in the dew while the white clouds pass,

Pale on his bed where the sunbeams fall.

 

His feet in the flowers, he smiles in his sleep,

As a sick child would smile, when he ceases to weep.

Coax the cold from his bones, Nature, with him bide.

 

No suave, wild scents disturb his rest;

He lies in the sun, one hand on his chest,

Quite peaceful. He has two red holes in his side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh what a war

This haibun is the first poem for this Armistice Day, for Frank Tassone’s prompt.

Well, here we are, waiting in the mild sunshine, the clouds scudding past from the south undecided—rain, or just passing through—for the sirens to sound and possibly the church bell to ring if they can find anyone to do it. The grass is golden in the sun, lush and green beneath the morning light, and the sky is blue. Trees dance, oaks hanging onto their greenery, the poplars tossing gold largesse of leaves. And when the sirens sound the eleventh minute, and some chasseur can’t restrain his trigger finger, and the bells finish pealing, and we all speak again with voices full of relief, what then? Another war over, a new one just begun, because, to paraphrase the song, those who don’t want it, don’t count.

always the sun

the moon the stars and autumn

that peels back

to the heart of things