Scarecrow [Free Verse]

Scarecrow, n. - that which exists 
                         solely to evoke fear.

There are so many scarecrows:
   global - the end of the world
                    as we know it.
   societal - the end of the tribe
                    as we know it.
   individual - scarecrows of the soul.

Scarecrows lead us into the worst
        versions of ourselves: 
 The one who's stressed, and mean
        because of it.
 The one who imagines conspiracy
        around every corner.
 The one who sees threat in every
        change & in every difference.
 The one who wants an orderly world
        of people just like themselves -
        familiar, cozy, and lacking surprises.

Scarecrows even march us off to war,
        and war should be the scariest state
              imaginable --
        death doled out on a random basis.
War should be the scariest, but terrible certainties
         spur less fear than any old uncertainty.

Metaphor & Misnomer [Free Verse]

"in the trenches"

what a circuit 
 that phrase has taken:

from the Western Front 
 of World War I, where the trenches 
 were cold, claustrophobic places
 of mud and creeping mustard gas;
 harbor & prison for shell-shocked
 souls at wit's end

to become used by businesspeople &
 politicians to describe metaphorical fights...

but there are no metaphorical fights,
 they should be called metaphorical games

games have winners & losers,
 but not the living & the dead
 & the dying & the disabled &
 the permanently disturbed

it feels like a frivolous bit
 of linguistic creep as fighters
 now stand on cold, wet feet 
 in muddy trenches
 in Eastern Ukraine

talk of salespeople or 
 grassroots political organizers
 as "in the trenches" 
 misses the point that everyone
 in trenches is a soldier --
 be they a salesperson
 in the metaphorical "trenches"
 of calmer days.

Fields of the Dead [Free Verse]

It's a beautiful day
  in the graveyard.

Blue skies.

Cool, but not cold.
 The ideal temperature
   to be an overdressed military man.

Do ghosts amble among the stones
   on days like these?

I imagine most of these men died
   on quite different kinds of days:

Rainy, cold, muddy days.

Muggy, buggy, malarial days.

The kind of day that just won't end,
   but to fold into a sleepless night.

How many died, 
  not from spall or Minié balls,
    but because they just didn't have the will
      to drag themselves through another day?
        from exhaustion?
        from demoralization?

How many died under beautiful blue skies
   on an idyllic autumn day?

I don't know whether 
  there're good days to die,
    and even less whether 
      there're good days to be dead.

Dogs of War [Lyric Poem]

The dogs of war are slipping.
  The ropes they are a ripping.

The palms they are a bleeding,
  as citizens are reading

of risks that led to slippage:
  of quips and of equipage,

and how it wasn't expected,
  and courses were corrected,

but still it all goes wrong.  

Tiny Tank [Free Verse]

Someone put a tiny, limp-gunned tank 
on Danube west bank --
in Budapest, opposite Parliament.

Unsubtle symbolism, indeed,
but worth noting:

The might of violence
made feeble in the face of democracy,
and all that.

So true,
and yet so few
seem to believe it.

We seem to believe
that matching savagery
is the key to strategy
in opposing the extreme,

but then we've really just made more
extremism, haven't we?

Emerson’s Wave [Free Verse]

Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not.

Ralph waldo emerson, Self-reliance
Is there any angst that we will tumble off
a cliff that we should have railed off 
long ago?

-- Nuclear War --

I fear that wave has rolled onward,
and we have lost that angst. 

Do we not fear:

blast wave disintegration?

fire that turns wet things 
-- such as ourselves --
into instant ash? 

clumps of hair in the hands
of the neutron-cooked?

If we've forgotten to fear such things,
we are surely doomed.

DAILY PHOTO: Indian Weapon Display

Taken in September of 2017 at the Government Museum of Bangalore

The War Mangled [Free Verse]

I heard the dead children,
their voices lilting on the wind.

The war-torn twice born
came crawling in under the wire,
bloody and shell-shocked,
but among the living, 

but the rest floated away:
their words
becoming both milder 
& more raucous,
never fully drowned out by
bombs or crossfire chaos.