Game of Words

I play with words the way rulers play with lives.
I elevate some of them, and I set others
against each other, slashing as if knives
were what they were. If I find a word that smothers
the others in my word menagerie
I snuff it out the way rulers do with lives.

Unlike with shamans, presidents, and tzars,
my powers do my subjects little harm.
When I am dead and done for, words will be
in dictionaries alphabetically,
and locked in novels, and free in open minds,
and floating between planets while they wait
for future speakers to provide them breath.

When shamans shame a person to go fight,
when presidents preside and send in troops,
and when tzars drive cars across their peasants’ heads
the people they run down stay grievously dead.

I can’t know if I am more moral than all world leaders,
but fortunately I am weaker, and I use words
as my objects for tormenting. Words can’t die.

The powerful trick or force the weak to work
on things that make the powerful more strong.
The strong earn billions (‘earn’ is here misused)
off the backs and dreams of people with less power.

I play a game with words, but those I exploit
remain as well off as do those I don’t.
To rulers causing torment, words are a quoit
they throw to ring in dissidents who won’t
kow-tow to them. Let them throw rings of iron
as often as they like till they expire,
these rulers, who like us must grievously die,
but our words and word games will survive their worst.

Cirrhosis Writhes and Moves On

Sir Rosis rose and razed his host
who resignedly retried
to raise a glass as in times past.
The glass broke and he sighed.
‘Do you recall?’ Sir Rosis asked,
‘the hogsheads and the casks
you lavished on your liver giving
it a keg of tasks?’
His host’s mind had been binged so much
that its memories were mired
in alcohol. The host drew a blank
and looked puzzled when it fired.
‘Your brain is mixing metaphors!’
Sir Rosis said and fled
to seek out other likely lads
with livers less stone dead.

Shelf Lives

My mind runs ragged victory laps, not races.
The applauding crowds are strange. They don’t have faces.
‘We’ve won,’ my mind tells mirroring copies of itself
arranged by dates of deception on a shelf
that is labelled Life, erroneously. The lies
of the land allay no fears although one tries
to ease my mind by saying it will be
happier on the shelf Eternity.

Neither Rhyme nor Reason

There was a total dearth of reason and an equal lack of rhyme.
Were it progress could we move to half a dearth?
To a double dearth? Could n-dimensions plot the slant of trailing rhyme?
I thought not. Nought thoughts have a way of stapling
up and stitching down until all that’s nought is lost
among cacophonies of never beens.

Flight Weight

(Experiment Number 6)

The bones of many mortals are not hollow
but these, this perished swallow’s, surely are
(or were; the tense attention’s metaphysics
shan’t deter us). Inter it in this jar,
with one side showing, so that we can follow
the beetles’ weekly progress with their trocar-and-cannula aspiration.

Will the swallow watch? Not likely.
Travelling to the places essence seeks,
when freed, will take its interest and its time.
Its body, once its joy, decomposing,
won’t cause the soaring spirit any grief.

The swallow starts its tour in further space
where all the stars, place-holder points of light,
avail the bird as nulls in the vast number,
that he, a leading one, installs in flight.

Week 2. We watch the beetles cart away
most of what empowered swallow wings.
The bone remains; some skin, and all the feathers.

Week 10. No beetles. The larvae freeze.
One night we hear bird song.

Winter solstice. I find the broken jar.