Violets in Wartime

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Listen.

 

Tis the sound

Of violence in the springtime.

 

Hark,

Hear the herald angels sing;

Up, onwards, and towards greater things.

 

Find me

In the fields

Where the flowers bend and bray –

They will not leave unspoken the words you meant to say.

 

There, I’ll wait,

Watching you by the Ivory Gate,

And dream I may, dream I might,

That you may join me another night.

 

You’ll find me, my love,

Where the violets in wartime grow gentle and green;

Whether they are a portent of things to come remains to be seen.

 

Before long,

The angels will be singing our song.

 

Until then, beneath the stars I’ll lay, free as a wildflower on her dying day.

 

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I Wanted to Write You Into a Love Poem

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I wanted to write you into a love poem,

But all I can conjure

Is a picture of a girl crying off her mascara

On a stoop in the south of Chicago,

Smeared burgundy lips wrapped around

One

Thin cigarette,

And the man she used to love

Entering the scene upon his exit

From the doorway with it’s crumbling yellow paint,

Pale, now, in the rising moonlight,

Faded from

Two

Decades of wind and rain,

And the gun he’s hiding behind his back –

“Come in,” he says to her –

Voice shaking in the cold December night,

And she says

Three

Words in return,

Breath rising like a halo around her lips,

But it’s lost to the wicked wind,

And he raises his hand and puts

Four

Slim, flattening bullets

Into her, and the

Five

Children they had together

Come running

Just as the church bells ring,

Announcing the arrival of the hour

Six.

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I saw you, yesterday,

Holding a rose as our lives converged

For one fleeting moment;

And I knew it was not for me,

But imagined it was,

There in the tunnels,

Where the clouds of our breath followed us

Into the train,

And all the way home,

A miasma from a different time, another place,

Now lost;

The world in which that moment was spawned

 Having changed, irrevocably,

For such is the nature of things,

To never stand still,

Even for an instant,

Not even long enough for me

To see the flower you didn’t pick for me

As more than a brief, blood-red blur

Of a life we will never live,

And a moment

We’ll never recapture,

Enraptured though I was,

By you,

And a red, red rose

Destined to win another woman’s heart.

 

The Last of the Snows Came in May

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The last of the snows came in May,

And I must confess

That I was gladdened by their arrival,

As I was lovesick that winter,

Into the spring,

And it quickened my heart

To see the new buds in your garden

Wither and turn their faces back

To the loamy soil that had birthed them,

And whose final freezing,

Like the closing of a door,

Had brought with it the cold breath

Of Death, face pale and bloodless

As yours had been,

Curling my shaking fingers ‘round our promise ring,

As you returned the ill-omened thing.

A Song of the Slain

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I wondered about you for hours afterward,

That day I saw you praying on a southbound train;

Later, I turned my face up in the pouring rain,

And I hoped that your prayer had not been in vain,

Not least of all because your brow had been furrowed in pain,

But also because I saw your reflection next to mine in the windowpane,

And it seemed to me that they were the same;

Each tear-stained, no matter the Gods we strained to explain

To ourselves as we tried to attain

The freedom that would break our chains;

Can we go back to that moment, again –

Sing, together, a song of the slain,

Pray to our Gods that they may always reign

Or has it waned too far to ever be regained –

That moment, in the sacred domain

Of a southbound train speeding valiantly onwards in the rain?

A Better Man Then I

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I wanted to write you into a love poem,

but I had not words enough for the sorrow I felt in your arms –

hush, don’t touch, let’s not rush this thing;

God, I love her so much,

clutching her in the sea of eternity

as the darkness descended

and I defended my inch of Hell in No Man’s Land,

as dawn broke and so did I,

as the tide subsided and revealed

in morning’s pale light the wreckage of our ill-fated love –

hush, love, kiss me, now, in the red dawn;

soon, you’ll be missing me, and I you,

and the serpents will be hissing in our ears,

but for now,

kissing you on the shores where our dreams came back home if only to die,

I can’t help but thinking

in the silence and the stillness and the calm before the storm

how fucking beautiful you’d look,

in a love poem penned by a better man then I –

one whose hands are pale and bloodless,

one who can find words and world enough

to write you like an arrow,

straight and true.

Ten Thousand Distant Suns

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I hope you did not hear me call your name

In the middle of the night,

When darkness fell too heavily upon my shoulders

For me to bear its weight alone.

I pray you did not witness my weakness

In the crimson dawn,

So weary was I from the waiting

That I wept as light flooded the valley.

I wonder if you saw my fall

In the strange noon-day shadows,

And if the glint of the guillotine will remain, ghost-like,

In your memory, at night, when silence surpasses all sound,

In the dark, when the weight of your guilt falls too heavily upon your shoulders

For you to bear its weight without praying for redemption,

But I cannot yet forgive,

And you will shoulder the blame as Atlas upheld the Heavens,

Weary, and with much regret.

I hope you’ll hear me calling, then, and

I pray you’ll remember my moment of triumph –

You know the one –

And one day, when night falls and our Kingdom comes,

You’ll hear the music of wild, feral drums, and

The darkness shall be lifted by the foreign light of ten thousand distant suns.