Sunday, July 29, 2012

478. Dietramszell


Hindenburg in his declining years
came often, old Prussian as he was,
to soften the hardness, tamp down
his fears. He was so old, near death.

Each gasping breath brought pain:
He, first to know his time was over,
knew that the War had been long ago
but that the politics would remain.

I imagine him in this Bavarian setting,
the low green slopes and distant mountains,
cap-doffings in the street, “Gruess Gott!”
The greetings of God, Herr Feldmarschall!

His steps would have taken him to the church
which stands still now at the bottom of a hill,
and he would have gone in, the Old Junker,
sweeping aside sectarian differences.

Bavarians were well known for being Catholic,
soft and fond of beer. It took Prussian steel
to instill real fear of God! Pause in the annex:
Fallen for Germany, 241 names, this small town.

Slightly abashed, the Field Marshall proceeds.
The main door is opened and glory explodes:
there is no other word, all is white and gold
and decorative and completely unrestrained!

This is the 18th century brought to life again:
baroque, rococo, architecture possibly designed
by pastry chefs, inedible incredible swirls of plaster.
The Field Marshall blinks once, twice. He smiles.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

477. The Return to Ireland of Conor MacArt

Fill ar ais go hÉirinn de Conor MacArt

Three years in a darkened prison, by God,
and myself snivelling and whining for food,
kissing hands of any man who brought me water.

God blast the heathen Jew and Paynim!
I would roar in my black and fearful cell
and the rats would cock their heads to listen.

Bert, my servant, had been summarily executed,
thanks be to God, he with no more stories to tell,
caught stealing bread from homeless orphans.

‘Twas that bread that barely kept me alive
until the summons came, a flood of sunlight,
illuminating stones, the source of a shriek of pain.

The chains and manacles were roughly removed,
and I was bathed and shaved and pomaded.
Arra, this is looking good, says I to myself.

A ship. The Great Suleiman has paid your ransom
I was curtly told, and I confess I was none too pleased,
but then we fell among moustachioed Cypriot pirates.

There was a great furore and a clanging of swords
and when they came down to kill us all, I sang
Kyrie, Kyrie Eleison, Kyrie Kyrie Eleison.

They dropped to their blood-drenched shaggy knees
and asked if I was a priest. I was, I told them,
and was escorted most politely to the upper deck.

I did solemn funeral ceremonies for the Christian dead
while the Turks were simply cast over the side.
I suggested a collection for the widows and children.

Now that I had money I was ablaze to get ashore
and was dropped, feigning illness, on an island called Rhodes.
It took me half a year to get to Marsillia in France.

Erstwhile friends, with exceptions, feigned not to know me,
and it was a weary journey from the south to the north.
At long last I gazed on the turbulent, grey northern sea.

England? No, I hardly think so. That Queen is no friend.
But a long sea journey will cost more than I possess.
Sadly, regretfully, I settled on robbery and murder.

Green and yellow, under clouds, beyond blue rushing waves,
appear the long and longed-for shorelines of Erin.
Home is the wanderer, what fate will await me now?

Friday, July 13, 2012

476. Heartaches (a wee shortie)

are like bonebreaks:
You'll never walk again!
You think it's true,
but then you do.

Friday, July 06, 2012

475. War

A few friendly farts around the table
do not come amiss, a new friendship starts
before language kicks in. Most of the lads
of whatever nation, of whatever station,
laugh at the same jokes. We are yokels.
Wars, I think, are made easy to start
because of male simplicity of the heart.

We need women to keep us sane,
balanced, keeping to the narrow lane
of things that matter. And as we become
older and fatter, the truth sinks in,
that it is young men with their flags unfurled,
heavy on the booze and with nothing to lose,
that make revolutions in this world.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

474. Cahirciveen, 1720

False friends beam slyly in the taproom
and thy name is now unknown to me,
thou Jezebel! The very doors of hell
yawn wide in a field in daylight
my bruiséd soul to greet. A breeze
whistles through the woods, and I,
who once would fawn, dissemble fright,
who would once yield, go weak in my knees,
go light of head, run fey in your sight,
am but a warp in a winding sheet.