The Farmer’s War

When Winter has released the earth at last,
Her frigid grasp undone and strength now past,
And winds do change and call the flagging Sun
To warm the soil, then may your oxen run
And strain beneath the yoke that guides the plow’s
Sharp keel, to churn the ground beneath the boughs
Of spreading elm and beech. Seek not their shade
To rest and play the shepherd’s pipes, no aid
To farmer’s work. So churn the ground and break
The yielding clods of earth, now tamed, to make
A home for Spring among the scattered seeds.
For there is little that is for man’s needs
By Nature made, spontaneous, unbidden.
Thus, lest we want and starve, the power hidden
Must every farmer’s hard labor release
In constant war, a battle without peace.
Beware revanchist Winter now returns,
As snow now falls and deadly frost then burns,
To snuff the newly scattered seed of life
And choke the land with one last snow, a knife
Held to its throat. But Spring she meets on high
And goddess Spring, shield girt, sword drawn, asks ‘Why?’
To which says Winter, ‘Naught else can I do.’
And battle joined deadly Spring runs her through.
As white-robed Winter falls, stained by the blow,
The farmers watch, transfixed by the tableau
Of heaven’s strife, and bow to fate’s demand
Ever to shape, to till, to work Spring’s land.

On Hardship

The days and weeks pass unaccounted for,
uncounted. What was yesterday? What is
today? To live is to sleep-walk through life
for most, to wait for life to happen as
a thousand days slip through your fingers once
and twice, again and repeated until
the end. For others, life is lived and seized
for every opportunity and chance
to ‘do’ life and then, ultimately, death.
But for us all what is it that remains
when we look back? There stands luminescent,
eternal, undiminished by time’s flow
the memory of the hardships of life:
injustice, war, privation, grief, loss, death,
the times of struggle for others, for cause
and purpose greater than our selfish wants,
that brought us closer to strangers, and made them
strangers no longer. For the friendship, the
new bond forged in the camps, in the trenches,
on tired picket lines, in shared black grief,
though temporary, goes beyond the tie
of mere acquaintance during times peaceful
and plentiful. So seek out challenge and
shun ease and leisure, better to prepare
yourself. And when your test, your hardship comes,
as to us all it must, meet it head-on
with eyes wide and heart steeled for if you live
your suffering, your triumphs, your failures
you will never forget and you will stand
in the awareness of what already
you have endured, steadfast and resolute.

Just Give Up

Why try when you will surely fail? You won’t
succeed but disappoint them all and be
yourself most disappointed by failure.
You cannot fail if you do not try, you
can live without the sharp discomfort of
failure, serene, at peace, in comfort, wrapped
in the embrace of timid inaction.
So come, give up, give in and join me down
among the lifeless living sleep-walking
in the mire, staring out with bulbous eyes
watching the world like gaping fish in tanks
we made. So come and join us. Just give up.

A Dream on High

I dreamed I stood below a mountain’s peak

Above me tall and snow-capped and its scale

I could not grasp then made me marvel more.

And looking down at me the mountain said:

‘Well who are you and what is it you seek?’                          5

And I could give no answer but just stood

And stared and felt still smaller than before.

I turned, surveying the lush wooded slope

That went far down the way that I had come

Although rememb’ring not the path I took.                            10

The oak and tower elm and leafy ash

There spoke to me apart and yet as one:

‘Well who are you and what is it you seek?’

And I could give no answer still as yet.

Instead I followed footprints in the grass                              15

To find a verdant stream I knew was there

Far down in shadows green on clear water.

The water spoke, its dripping head held raised:

‘Well who are you and what is it you seek?

Nothing can hide from you in my green stream.                    20

There is no secret here for you to find.’

I turned a pensive eye to the heavens

And saw an eagle riding unseen gusts.

It carried me on drifting thermal winds

And as I looked down, there I saw below                             25

The mountain and the forest and the stream

And there I saw myself now formed in them,

My face there looking up at me eyes wide.

And then the landscape folded and transformed

And was a mirror held before my life                                     30

Before the mirror shattered and became

The mountain and the forest and the stream.

At last I knew the answer I would give

For then my contemplation was over.

The eagle set me on the mountain-top.                                   35

Above the starry sky was full of night

And seemed to darken, coming closer still

And points of light on black-in-black canvas

Then filled my vision and surrounded me

Until the stars were there within my head                              40

And I encompassed them and all else too,

And I was there and not there, present

Unseen and tossed as though a mote of dust;

Unknown, forgotten like a hint of thought.

Through darkness and in light, I felt myself                                       45

Again once more and felt the mountain there

Beneath me and returned from my journey

Awakened and I answered their questions.

And laughing they invited me to stay.

I stayed and I decided not to wake.                                       50