Down here on this barren battleground
We have been issued no orders
We don’t even know who we are fighting anymore
Yesterday the fog was so thick
We mistakenly shot our own leader
And laid him to rest ‘neath a tree
Perhaps we should withdraw
Which is not a surrender
We mustn’t surrender
For there is too much to lose
But we’ve forgotten what
Send word back
That we have not thrown down our weapons
But we need back up
It seems we have gone weeks without sleep
As we sit in the dark every night
Waiting for the enemy to attack
But they never come
This is a very sophisticated strategy
That we have not been briefed on
For our leader is dead
And his family have not received word
For they will only grieve
And too many tears have been shed
Too many hearts broken
Too many roads taken
Too many widows haunting us
In the mists of dawn
But we are holding our position
And ready for action
Eager to do him proud
To fight to the last man
We have burnt our white flags
So we wouldn’t be tempted
Our enemy has a lot to answer for
We just haven’t been informed of what
But we’ve been told to hate them
I wonder if they’re scared like us?
I wonder if they sleep?
I wonder if they just want to go home
Like we do?
I wonder if they’re still there?
Perhaps the war is over
I wonder who won?
The boy called me old man but I pitied him and his youthful arrogance, for I knew the pain that waited ahead for him. Life humbles us all. Even the ones who think they are Superman in those summer days of our lives. There will be plenty of time for him to look back at how much he squandered his power on those who let him down. Like an incessant drum beat that slowly fades and diminishes altogether till there is only the relief of silence that comes to those old enough to appreciate it. Some will rage against the unfairness of the inevitable but will fall where they stand as young men step over their bodies in their excitement to enter the ring.
When we are young we dream of running away with the circus. When we are old the circus runs away from us. But by then we can see through the grandeur to the sweat, fear and blood of the performance. And the toll it takes from us all.
It is unjust that we amass some experience and wisdom that gets us nowhere but a park bench in the sun. For no one is interested in listening to what we know because they’re too busy rushing around making all the same mistakes we did. And good advice is only met with resentment from the young, like telling someone how a book ends and spoiling it for them.
Some young men have so many women they don’t know what to do with them. Eventually the women realise this and leave for greener pastures and something more substantial than big talk. Or a big car. For they were never really interested in the car.
Time is a serial killer that picks its targets indescriminantly but will eventually come knocking for us all in the dead of night.
Even for those who were once arrogant young things who thought they knew it all
The heavy decrepit bodies of the great and not so, mingled with their offsprings, children too young to realise that this too would be their fate. Pathetic men way past their glory days paraded pretending that they still had it, while bored defeated women looked on knowing they didn’t.
It was another day at the enclosed perfectly temperatured salt baths. The warmth was comforting to the skin and the soul and made old bones and muscles feel rejuvenated. The inhabitants floated safe in this maternal womb away from the business deals that no longer mattered in a world that no longer cared and was on its last legs. Some old guys studied the racing form while younger middle-aged men preferred the stock market. Some gambled with their own money while others ventured with what they had married into, or had inherited. All in all there’d be few winners that day. There were no more lucky numbers to be had, or surprise gold and mineral funds in a world that had been looted, raped and gang banged so many times there was nothing left. Certainly not energy for outrage. Only resentment from natives who had been trampled under foot and squashed by the invaders who destroyed paradise without ever having taken the time to truly look around and realise the greatest wealth was above the ground. But like rats they burrowed lower and lower into darkness desperate for any shiny morsel of opportunity. Never thinking any further ahead than that.
We had destroyed the world without realising that such an abomination also destroyed ourselves. What we project outwards also implodes us. Given time.
I stood in the warm salt water as the floating bodies of the dead and the dying circled me.
He aged within the silences of our stilted conversation. His eyes were those of a man who’d seen his kingdoms fall and the survival mechanisms of such pain had turned him into a statue. Although he was outwardly pleasant and patient there was no one there. He was a ghost haunted by himself but chained to a place that had been familiar in his real life. I wondered if like other theories of ghostlore he was doomed to act out his past mistakes over and over again until they revealed something he hadn’t known before. And replayed to the incessant drumbeat of “If only I’d done this. If only I’d done that. If only…If only…
The dark circles beneath his eyes told me he didn’t sleep much and that the night was rarely his friend. To him there was no morning, afternoon or evening only awake time and dozing time.
It was those eyes that still haunt me to this day. They told me they knew the secrets of this life and that the knowing of such things begats a penalty far beyond any pain most humans experience.
He said his best writing came to him at 3am which was God’s favourite time to speak through us, when the night is still and the silence is that of eternity. The world at momentary peace with itself and you feel you can hear God’s breath within the comforting embrace of darkness. Such were the fleetingly magic moments when inspiration struck him.
He felt he was no longer a person, but a vessel. He had worn himself out in his search for a lasting kind of love and knew now that it was not written as part of his destiny. Hence he no longer sought it for it only carried disappointment in its train. and such disappointment sometimes took years to wash away. A penalty for those who cared too deeply. Furthermore he now feared he no longer contained the capacity to feel the emotions of normal people, and wondered why God had spared him and taken so many others. Sometimes it crossed his mind that the lucky ones died young, still hopeful with dreams intact. He mused that perhaps that old saying was true, “God calls home first those he loves the most.”
These days he liked to walk in the rain. It made him feel something.
When the night comes down
And the world’s at an end
I hope the dying of the light
Catches you with a friend
If it were up to me
You’d live a thousand years
In a world that was fair
In a world without tears
You stood up for me
When I was condemned
But there are some things
This life can’t mend
So I’ll see you in the next
And save a place for you
For your heart was always kind
And your word was true
In my time of dying
They’ll call for a holiday at the workhouse
For there’ll be no bills to be paid
Mouths to be fed
Or favours to be returned
And the women that loved me may walk a little slower
And the men who plotted my downfall will have nothing to do
The people who go around taking names will give them back
Realising their data and all their lists reveal not a thing about who we are in those lonely nights
In our lonely rooms
Where the hours after midnight are our only friends
And some will weep for what was denied
And others will laugh at the remembrance of what was done
There will be those who will continue to phone my number expecting me to be there
As I did for some weeks after my poor mother died
Others will walk with my ghost
Along familiar broken dark alleys
That I walked to expend my joy and tragedies when they were too intense to share with anyone
Some will cry at the ground beneath my headstone thinking I’m there
But I’ll be gone from the things that rooted me to this earth
Maybe some women will regret that we didn’t take that dance
Just once perhaps
In an intoxicating act of madness
Risking the stars for a shot at the moon
But we risked nothing
And got nothing in return
While others saw Paris
Saving ourselves for what?
We weren’t given a life for safety
But rather to live
To make mistakes
To sometimes get it right
And to find shared humanity
In the loss and ruins of our deluded dreams
Some will express disappointment
That they never saw what I did
Because there were too many excuses that kept them home in front of their mirrors
Reflecting on things long gone
Old men with cracked voices revealing broken hearts will drink to our friendship in all the bars where we laughed away the night
And reduced all our tragedies to punchlines of a joke
Those whom I loved will know that I loved them by the strange feeling of warmth they feel each time they remember me
And that will be because I am still with them
Smiling that smile when you have said it all
Shared it all
And given all
And they will be the custodians of my true legacy
Not the academics
Who never knew me
Nor the critics
Who never got me
Nor the talkative acquaintances
Who never saw me bleed
And be less than myself at times
Or surpass myself when a friend had stumbled
And needed someone to defend him or her
No, don’t look for me in the cold corridors of libraries
Or reduced to a 60 second grab on a news channel
Or killed again in some passionless speech from some senile professor
Who thinks he has worked me out
Or edited to the bone in an obituary dashed off by some hack demoted from the sports page
For I was never here for them
I was here for you
You were my mission
I have seen how people are rewritten in order to take their place in the posterity of people’s hearts and minds
All the creases ironed out
Christ-like into history
By a St. Paul who thinks there may be a buck to be made from my resurrection as a different man
My intentions adapted and rewritten to reflect someone more palatable to the masses
As if it is not enough to be crucified in life
They must crucify you in death too
Eventually we are all turned into Lincoln monuments
Stony cold and all-knowing
Devoid of all the doubts, regrets, mistakes, failures, anger, frailties and foolishness that made us human
For the road to earthly perfection and hero status is merely a Houdini illusion
The big lie
Told enough times to become fact
But if this circus comes to town
I don’t want you to attend it
For you knew me better than anyone
You saw me weep
When I pretended not to care what they said about me
You saw my anger
When I turned the other cheek
You saw my bewilderment when success came too late for me to care
You saw my scars from the loss of the irreparable
You saw my kindness without agenda and trusted it
You saw the pain that wrecked a life but was rewarded with a shining talent and an impossible schedule
You saw an old soldier’s dignity that could not be captured by the enemy
You saw the effort it took to face another day
You heard my prayers and the foolish hopes and dreams of a prize fighter punch drunk but still standing
You heard my approaching footsteps when all the others had run for cover
For you were my friend
And I loved you with all the nobility of Sir Galahad laying down his life when it was needed
And discussing life
And the reasons we live it
At our little round table
Watching you being whipped for the sins of others
I caught your fall
And guided you to the ground
Laughing at the stupidity of taking it all too seriously
For it, after all, was just a dream
And now here I am
In another dream
And can be summoned up whenever you need me
I am stronger now
And the night, and people, can no longer tire me or disappoint
I am now all yours
And no one can be jealous of what we have
Your past and present friend
Who came to save you from the confusions of life
And in doing so saved myself too
It is only love that gives sense to this whole huge expensive gaudy experiment of God’s imagination
And in excepting your love
I have given you mine
And it is in this love that we are granted eternal life
In my time of dying
I will take one last look around
To see if I missed anything
And then close my eyes to what could’ve been, should’ve been
For you are allowed no baggage in heaven
And yours will be the last face I see
There will be no will to find
Only the stubbornness that left me penniless
For I gave no names
To betray my brothers
For the betterment of my career
And the belittlement of me
I was always wiser in my work
Than I was in life
Thus I withdrew from life
And lived in my work
So if you ever miss me
This is where you will find me
He came with love in his heart for every living thing. His innocence had been untouched and his light force shone so bright that crowds gathered to see him but, more importantly, to feel his warmth. By gazing upon him they were somehow changed. “Was this the Messiah?” they mumbled to each other in hushed tones lest they be deemed blasphemous by some. For some can find darkness in every hope, every wish, every prayer.
And when this man spoke it brought some to their knees, others to tears. It was as if the calmness in his voice could heal every hurt and fear that had weighed them down and they were now somehow lighter.
The taking away of such anguish even brought back sight to the blind. As if all they had needed was to believe in something and were being granted the ability to see the world anew. Men who had walked too many lonely dead end loveless roads and were now crippled, found that they could walk again. And after those first awkward unsure steps they inched closer and closer to him growing more confident and accepted with each one until they were in his arms, and the safety and strength of unconditional love made them sob for the joy of each precious moment. Time that they had, until now, misinterpreted and cursed for their burdens, and wasted, was now rediscovered and rejoiced over. All things were possible again.
In his face they saw no judgement, no impatience, no pity, only love. And his love became contagious among the people and they sang his praises.
He had not come to destroy the Romans, or hand out weapons, or preach hate. He was here to give meaning to our lives. What was the meaning of life? Love. For love opens the door to joy. And its light extinguishes all shadows.
But there were those, the shadow people, who were angered by us learning the meaning of existence and saw that this teaching could undermine their power over us. For they ruled by fear and threats, both of which were rendered insignificant when the masses walked proudly in the sun again unchained from their own mental limitations.
So they arrested this man, this dangerous man, beat him, whipped him, ridiculed him and his suffering, and sentenced him to an agonising death for the crime of telling us to love and forgive each other.
And in his final conscious moments he forgave those who had plotted his death, and the ignorant who had killed him. To this day it remains the greatest triumph of the human spirit.
Perhaps he was drawing evil into the light so that the world could recognise its face?