Category Archives: Poem

A Man, a Survivor

[a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

A strange old man, a very ancient figure,
that’s who he was,
who he is,
who he will always be
.

A man of many titles in as many times:
poor Bill, mendicant, beggar and tramp.

At times,
panhandler, good-for-nothing loafer,
deadbeat, vagrant, hobo, gypsy
and in more recent times,
a welfare bum.

Sometimes this strange man
whom everybody sees, nobody knows
comes back from the sea,
sometimes from the wars or prison:
no one comes to the quay
or the bus stop to meet him

and to hug him.

Alone,
carrying a damp and dirty canvas bag
he limps down some dark alley
to find a familiar den,
a smoke-filled tavern, an inn.
a halfway house.

For a few coins, a room under a stairway
a garret with drafty shutters,
a condemned house

become his home ’til the angels come
or the demons, and who can ever tell?

Sometimes he just gets tired of jostling
for position and wealth – leaves one night
never to come back. Why for?

His wife re-married, does he care?
Who’s to know? Not even he
wandering the drafty city streets
with his new title and essential wealth.

He’s a successful miner now,
mining garbage for treasures
haphazardly arranged in a rusty shopping cart
(of front squeaky bent wheel
from an accidental encounter with a taxi)
until deposited for safekeeping.

They call him homeless now, the
politically correct term
for this strange old man who never did fit,
who in his youth had a strong back
to break up the coal, carry gear and pack a rifle
walk through flooded paddies
and burn babies in their mothers’ arms
inside grass huts in a land so far away.

He knew well enough then why he did this:
for God and country and freedom
they’d told him so and he believed.

He came back from the killing fields
to log the dark green hills
until the trees were gone.
He cleaned out curbs and culverts
for a pittance in part time jobs
to bolster free enterprise and capitalism.

“It’s all good” they said with a leer
and what could he do but believe?

He doesn’t remember much of that
and really, what does it matter now?
the rich got richer and died,
the dead remain dead
and he’s got his place
behind four loosened cement bricks
under a forgotten embankment
where he hides his “Precious”
and keeps a mouldy sleeping bag,
drinks, sleeps and feeds his nightmares
of bullets and blood,
of flames that roast flesh,
of screams of pain and terror:
the voices of the dead
his last remaining friends.

It’s time to work the streets again,
push the rusty cart with the squeaky bent wheel
until the angels return again
or the demons, and who’s to know?

He’ll be there again tomorrow
and the day after that
and even after the Great Day
there he will be in his dirty tattered rags
his long stringy hair blowing wildly
in the cold, cold winds that haunt
the endless dirty, drafty, empty city streets

What will his title be
next time I pass him by trying not to notice?

I think I already know this, in my heart
as I look around and ponder this place:
he’ll be the survivor.

The Question never Asked

[a poem by   ~burning woman~   written by Sha’Tara]

Is there meaning to believe in?
I’ve done all I could to absorb this world,
to understand people, no, not just
people, but this world’s life.
I’ve seen and felt its endless struggle,
its romance with beauty and with horror.
So much drama but never an answer
to the eternal question.
You may ask, ask, and ask; you may
shed tears of raw pain, of sorrow, of anger
and the world is awash in mute noise.

I’ve seen cats fight and children die in war,
heard and read the boasting, seen the posturing
over beads, trinkets and ticker-tape money
and walked streets I thought were painted red
but it was always the blood of innocents,
no thin red line but a widening swath
leading to a pile of skulls and scattered bones.

Rats ran away as I came near as if I’d been more
than a nameless ghost in an endless dream.

I can see, I can hear, I can smell and
I can feel. As if that could ever be enough!
I have observed, weighed my thoughts
to realize they were too heavy to bear;
looked in a mirror to watch myself age
as in a time-lapse scene
from angst of birth to relief of death,
its in-betweens sprinkled with flashes of joy
stolen from the ever-dying landscape.

And all I ever wanted was to ask
the one question never asked before;
the one question no one ever dared ask
or no one ever thought to ask: the
one that answers all others – how
presumptuous to believe I could
formulate such a thing, that I
could discover the meaning of life or,
if you will: the meaning of meaning.

Cafe Philos Poetry Prompt

The following is for Paul Sunstone’s Cafe Philos Poetry prompt, see link here:

The Café Philos Poetry Prompt For Them That Be Wild Things (March 31, 2019)

                 I Am Shallaya

[remembrances of a      ~burning woman~ ]
                as told by Sha’Tara

Spring steel: that was the Word.
I arched my back to feel it.
‘Yes,’ I whispered to the damp stone walls
Encompassing me, imprisoning me,
Spring steel:
That’s what I must be, it’s what I am.

Let them come for me now, I am ready.

They came then, as I knew they would.
They came, two by two at first,
To lie dead and bleeding on the stone.
It wasn’t what they had expected
As they leered at my naked body.

I stood waiting for the denouement:
There was a commotion in the hall
The clank of halberds and swords,
The yell of commands, curses, questions,

Confused calls echoed in the dungeons:
I discovered something else, a new power
The Spirit had left with me: dark sight.
With my mind I extinguished their torches.

They were sightless in the hallway;
Smelled the blood of their fallen comrades
Never thinking I could have done such.
I smelled their fear then, that of retribution
From their superstitions, the dreaded unknown.

I spoke for the first time since captured:
Five days it was I had been stripped, mocked,
And thrown in the dungeon for future sport.
Five days and I found my voice again,
But not the one I’d used to plead with!

‘You will all die,’ I said, growling
As the power beast rose in my throat,
As the spring steel twanged in my back
As I came out slowly, tearing out the steel door
As if made but of straw wattles.

I could see them, they not me!
Pathetic, I thought, as I touched one:
He peed himself, dropped his weapon,
Begged for mercy, as each one did,
Gurgled, as I ripped his throat out,
A fitting end for such cowards.

I found a young one about my size:
Took his clothes, tunic, armour,
Walked out openly, thought a guard
Until challenged at the main gate.

I recognized some of the gate watch:
They had leered and laughed as I was paraded
Naked for their benefit.

‘I am Shallaya the witch,’ I said
Matter of fact and simply intoned
With a normal woman’s voice.

Their eyes grew big, they made their move
And I mine: five men became five bodies.

I turned and cursed their battlements then,
And watched as they collapsed.
I cursed their gate and walked on through.
I cursed their drawbridge. It collapsed
Like a rotten log into the stagnant moat
And what a stench arose from that!

I walked away not even looking back
As the people fled screaming
As mice from a burning barn.

“You did that well” said the Grimmer
As he floated beside me, grinning stupidly.

‘I passed my test, then?’ I asked of him.

“I’m not supposed to tell, but of course
Yes, you passed your test. You are Power.
You are Witch. They await you
To give you your power staff.”

‘Thank you, Grimmer, for the gift.’
And I pointed back to the dying castle.
He laughed and disappeared.

With such power, how did we lose?
How did we not see the Patriarchy coming?
Though nobody now, I remain Witch.
I am Shallaya, and I still ask the Question

And it will never, ever, be over.
That I have sworn upon my staff
The day they burned it, and my body.

The Dangerous Women

[a late night poem,  by  ~burning woman~   ]

Who are these dangerous women?
The ones who bring back
the love of their dead men!
The ones who bring back
the laughter of their lost children!
The ones who bring back
the dreams of their estranged sons!
The ones who bring back
the hopes of their enslaved daughters!
The ones who remake the world.

We are the dangerous women
And we have returned
with destruction in our hands
to shatter the Patriarchy!
Welcome us or reject us,
why should we any longer care
how we are perceived?
or received?
In our hands is Life’s Power!

Another Sunrise Drowns

[a poem by ~burning woman~ ]

I remember long ago,
I was watching the sun set
I remember it was from an island
but I don’t remember which,
or when,
or where. I remember I was alone.

I say to myself: does it matter now?
No, I answer, it does not.

The earth has already turned,
oh so many times for me
each time a little slower,
each time taking a little longer
and I know now, as I didn’t know then
there must come a last time.

I sit at a little round table,
overlooking the sea, the see…
the table rocks a bit,
as does the chair,
they were made who knows where,
not for this kind of terrain.

I am alone, looking at the sea
looking at what I can see,
sluggish waves so casually
make love to a tired sandy beach.
My glasses are on the table
beside the empty wine bottle;
tonight, particularly tonight
my thoughts are far from here.

Once, I remember, I had a future;
it was filled with colour
and the laughter of children
mixed with mine, my smile,
they said, shamed the rising sun;
dreams and hopes chased each other
across so many landscapes
and seascapes where tiny white boats
sailed away into the sunrise
questing in hope that springs eternal.

Every sunrise must turn into a sunset,
is that not so?
This evening, slow and cool in purple
fills with rasping dreams of romance
that never was; dried longings
parched Autumn leaves falling, sails
no wind ever came around to fill:
I see just another sunrise helplessly
come to drown into the endless sea.

When you Die then you Live

[a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

When you die
(I said to him)
matters not how many are around you
in your hospice bed
or none
as you perish in the storm
you die alone.

Then why
(I said to him)
when you live
can you not be equally alone
however surrounded by insistent motion
or in the stillness
of a moonlit snowscape?

But how can I love you
(he said to me)
when you wish to be alone
when you go away
leaving no note
when you stand so still
under the moon in our yard
and neither touch nor word
you acknowledge?

When you leave
(he said to me)
with no word of farewell
(as in that old song)
I die inside
but when you turn your eyes
to look into mine
I come alive again
Why
(he said to me)
do you do this?

Don’t you know?
(I said to him)
Don’t you see it’s because
I want us both to know
what matters
and whom it is we truly love?
Love is a trade-off
where there is no pining
where there is no loss
there is no desire awakened
there is no gain

Would you know life
(I said to him
the last time I left us)
learn how to be alone
with your eyes wide open
with your mind on everything
except us.

 

 

 

 

What we Settle For

(So, I thought to myself as I read this written who knows when, why not? And here it is)

a poem… by   ~burning woman~ 

It’s there – for all to see it doesn’t work –
but no one can see it;
not until it collapses in your lap:
when the hopes and dreams
shatter as glass when a rock is thrown
and children run laughing
while another screams inside a dark house.
Isn’t it amazing what we settle for?
What we convince ourselves of?
There is the tried and true and failed –
Oh yes, failed, utterly failed –
but what can one do? It’s all there is, isn’t it?

We are born into society – a pattern set in cement –
and even if we notice (too late)
the cement is cracked and crumbling
no one is pouring fresh stuff down here.

Let’s see, what are the options
for the budding human’s dreams?
There’s church – some kind of religion
so you can get hooked to God – the Great One
who’s more silent than the grave;
family – parents and siblings and fights
followed by separation and divorce
and relocation to another apartment.

There’s government – you register to pay
everyday of your life and beyond;
there’s school – education to make you fit in
and teach you how to walk with eyes wide shut.
There’s work – you have to make money —
it’s what makes it all go round and down.
There’s repetition: your own family now —
the confining straights of marriage
and kids and responsibilities no one ever taught —
you fly by the seat of your pants
and you remain afloat – maybe –
or you lose and fall and lose again.

And at that point there’s jail — you had your good times
they brought you too low and you couldn’t climb out
so they scoop you off the sidewalk,
in cuffs you watch your shiny stolen car
burn inside the basement of a house
and an ambulance screams away.

Stop, you say, stop already —
it’s not that bad, not for most —
and sadly I have to agree, it is not:
most accept the middle road, the common ground.
They warm the pews, fill the voting booths,
sit at desks half asleep to make it work
and in the end they commute, commute, commute –
like the beat of a train’s steel wheels
on a cheaply laid track —
to the job and back from the job,
“I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go!”
and it all becomes the same, blurred, wasted emptiness
mixed with forgotten dreams alluded to
with sarcastic laughter once or twice at a party.

And hope, what happened to it?
Well, it’s still there, somewhere —
in the shoe closet with its broken flip shelf,
in the empty baby’s crib or the rusting barbecue.
Sometimes it’s in the cold hot tub
and sometimes in the boat with no license
or under the scum in the swimming pool.

Mostly it’s in the maxed-out loans and mortgages
maybe just enough to tell the Sheriff: not today,
just barely enough.
Dreams and hopes becoming the memories
rounded up to form the padding in the coffin.