As if waiting for The Echo

 

Angels know a Million things The Coded Genes that fix their Wings,

Devils know a Thousand Lands Of Poison Tongues and Idle Hands.

 

Knowing’s not the thing to fear when Thunders far there’s Lightening near,

The Reapers Scythe lurks in the gaps between the Contours of our Maps.

 

After Smiles and Shaken Hands Serpents loose their Bloody Plans,

While Dogs of War attend their Wounds Havoc Slips to Rage too soon.

 

There’s no-one Guarding at the Gates where Saints and Sinners Congregate,

They’re Far to busy Preaching Hate to recognize their Brain Washed State.

 

As Word on Word the Pulpits Fall into their Pits go One and All,

Their Little Voices Hollowed out no matter how they Scream and Shout

 

In a Quiet Place

 

In The arbour under bough

A silence fell, quite still.

The breeze was cooling gently

Our blazing want of will

 

A Robin followed swift of wing

Dancing light before our feet,

While all around her Sisters sing

Great Hymns of Nature, Incomplete

 

Words seemed to float away from us

While painted in that place,

For all the reverence spoke of love

Not one could frame your face

 

And often times I’m taken there

When from my mind you’ve flown,

To save myself from dark despair

For there, I feel I’m home.

Hegel’s Parallax

 

What is harder than to realize we are wrong?

Standing before Altars, beneath Spires

 

Are we then without pause to blindly carry on?

Or to extinguish the constructs and causes of The Fire

 

For what are we if in our time we pass from East to West,

Circuitous by nature, unknowing beyond the bend

 

Believing earthly toil might deliver peaceful rest

To be welcomed by a moment after which, is only end.

 

In such blissful nothing would the Journey be in vain

The winding path of travel ever lost?

 

Or might those who follow never tread our way again

And with their every footstep repay themselves, our cost.

 

Victor Ludorum

The Sinewed boy Glistens, Spent,

At Sports Days end, Magnificent

 

The Golden Smile, his Ruffled Crown

A Monarch Raised to be Brought Down.

 

Mothers Pride, Fathers Fears

Too Much to Hide through all The Years

 

A Trophy in a Picture Frame

A Silver Chiseled Long Lost Name.

 

Of all The Battles Fought and Won

None held its Day as that has Done.

 

Kit Bag Repatriation

The Stock sat snuggly in the shoulder,

Now here they are a lifetime older.

The greater mass filled Rifle Sights

To squeeze the trigger, felt so right.

 

Someone said they were the one’s

To fall before the blazing guns,

And so they fell, some Mothers Sons,

Some lives snuffed out and some begun.

 

Some went home in sleeping bags

Rotten flesh in haversacks,

Some The Low Road, some The High

Not one of them knowing why

 

 

Fatal Blow & Rural Rides revision

Fatal Blow

Down where The Land yields to The Sea

As the edge of an offered blade,

A boundless ocean flows harnessed yet free

Through trenches millennia made.

 

At The pool of my blood I’m cut to the bone

Fractured cliffs rise up to defend,

My heart echoes through chambers forever alone

With a pulse that no steel could end

 

Love is The Sword that rusts in the tide

Thrust too deep to ever withdraw,

Like the myth of a King who drew it but once

To find himself ever at war

 

 

Rural Rides (The Bird Scarer)

Under Sack Cloth between The Cracks,

In ditches by The Workman’s Tracks,

Beyond the Bawdy Ale soaked House,

The Scarer Wakes with Field Mouse

 

The Dust of Bones that fell in France

Was scattered here to bring advance,

To farmers fields with Heavy Plough

Our Dead are churned to feed us now.

 

A Bastard Boy no Mother Mourns,

The Blasted Cannon of Empires Dawn,

His Clapper Claps to scare the Birds

Each Clattered Beat Drowns out his Words.

 

Across these Patchwork Jaded Hills

An echo gently whispers still,

Of all the voices never heard

Drowned out by time to scare a bird.

The Dangerous Silence

My anger today is silent

It is beyond rage and ranting.

 

It is my fist through a door on the other side,

fractured but healing itself

 

It is the blasted walls of my room scattered around my feet,

And I’m standing in the Sun, still alive.

 

It is a closed door opened to find dead friends behind

their peaceful faces purple and putrid,

 

It is the darkness of a room in which I sleep and dream,

of lucid night flights to place’s never seen

 

It is absent weeks and months not knowing who I was,

Slowly opening my eyes, the bandages coming off.

 

It is answering questions offered by machines about my health,

Folding the blade shut, putting the glass down.

 

My anger today is in every single cell

So terrifying is its silence it becomes a living Hell.

 

Care Home Grunt

He’s Marching now,

still marching now

 

Pants stained with piss

And bayonets fixed.

 

He’s Marching now

defences down,

 

A British Soldier

From Bandon Town.

 

Catheter split,

covenant broke,

 

From fearsome fighter

To sad old bloke.

 

Those Mau Mau bastards

are at the door,

 

Not scared of colonials

anymore.

 

Standing too for the evening news,

DMS boots now paper shoes.

 

No Ration packs, he gets to choose

Liquidised dinner laced with booze.

 

Came back home to drive a bus

raised four kids, made no fuss,

 

Never spoke of jungle fires,

Pulling nails, or necklace tyres.

 

But when the twilight touched his mind

it brought back what he’d left behind,

 

And his last stand was made alone

behind the lines in a British Care Home

 

 

Kern Maiden

 

Woven straw of string tied doll

hanging from a farmers post,

pin-pricked, spat on, cursed by all,

once a life, now more a Ghost

 

Fumbling’s of the foulest feast,

Whispered threats to Promise Keep.

These Woods belie a Darker Beast

And far to go before you sleep.

 

Touch the corn to feel the Pain

the Hearts that Beat here share no Tongue,

Though they’ll recall from whence you came

to tell it all, but just for fun

 

You are of Flesh and not the Grain

your Harvest spoiled was Salted Tears,

The Scythe that Swept will Cut again

that None be spared their Childhood Fears

Monophonic Revolution

 

Chords trudge like heavy horses,

While keys are on the rise.

They lift, they turn, they gather forces,

toward Melodies Reprise.

 

Blended chaos, anarchic noise,

Entropic waves of time,

Pulsing violent love destroys

The theories of the crime

 

Without the word the actions fade

for something else to come,

borne in foundations bravely laid

by millions, one by one

Absentia

 

A Pathway grown of bladed green

curves its way on ridge-line rise,

saddling Chalk-Hills in between

Its furthest vista melts to sky.

 

One foot before the other falls,

a sturdy stick to bear me straight,

the distant sounds, a City calls, 

To spur my step lest I be late.

 

The yearning skyline, clawing high,

brick on brick and life on life,

Climbing upward from the why

No answers there to ease my strife.

 

As if to snub the goading sight

I slow my pace and breathe the air,

at once to know my mind is right

To be just here and not be there.

 

 

Yūgen

 

After rain has come and gone

I sit a while beneath the tree,

the one my Father sat upon

Where once he may have thought of me.

 

Slowly, Sunbeams dry the bark

She weeps her raindrops, free to fall.

I stay there sometimes when its dark

To listen to wild natures call.

 

But always when I rise to go

once all the reminiscing’s done,

I’m clearer in the things I know

Of what is past and what may come.

 

Though under Skies as grey as Slate

dull days may shade my memory,

No darkened cloud could span so great

To dim my eyes of that one tree. 

 

Thoughts on Fergal Keane

Last night I watched a documentary produced by the esteemed broadcast journalist Fergal Keane. The programme was ostensibly about his battle with PTSD, an injury he sustained over years of reporting on some of the most horrific conflicts in recent times.

I am particularly interested in Fergal Keane for several reasons. I first became aware of him in the mid 80’s when he was an aspiring journalist working in Northern Ireland reporting on “The Troubles” at that time I was serving in the British Army in the border regions of The Province. It was a time of realisation for me, an awakening to the often hidden connivance and true nature of conflict which at its very core seeks power, influence and wealth. I realised that moral arguments and offered allegiances were frequently smokescreens for deeper more basic human desires and instincts. Fergal Keane went on to report on conflicts in The Balkans, The Middle East, Southern Asia and numerous countries in Africa. He is currently covering the conflict in Ukraine.

At some point in the first half of my military career which extended between 1983-2005 I realised that Fergal’s broadcasting assignments were taking him to the same regions of the globe I was finding myself in. He popped up In Beirut when I was there, then in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1999 during a time of savage civil war. The conflict in Sierra Leone was very much cast in the shadow of what was at that time occurring in The Balkans. Consequently, much of the bloodlust and genocidal nature of events went unreported, even worse it was ignored as being an irrelevance to what was happening closer to European borders back home.

It has been my experience that the further away from Europe one travels and/or the darker a victims skin the less interest people back home have. I believe this attitude may be changing, although possibly only due to lines of communication becoming more accessible to all . The emergence of new commodities often in what is termed the third world is creating prospective future battlefields. This in turn may focus the attention of developed nations upon those specific regions and give rise to a greater awareness of the poverty and suffering of their populations. We can only hope such development harnesses investment rather than the traditional tendency for exploitation we have witnessed historically. In terms of people truly caring I am not entirely convinced.

I slightly veered off my intended course in my previous paragraph, my apologies.

In 1999 whilst in Freetown I was fortunate enough to meet Fergal in the famous watering hole known as Paddy’s Bar. Paddy’s Bar is renowned for many reasons all of which are stories in themselves. Consequently, I will simply say that those who frequented Paddy’s would unlikely forget it (mostly the good) I met Fergal on two occasions at Paddy’s, once in the company of the legendary Fred Marafano who was discussing his own experiences of engaging with the RUF in the unconventional conflict. Paddy’s Bar was a place where NGO’s, Journalists, Mercenaries, and other strange animals, savoury and unsavoury would meet in the late afternoon to swap stories and information of what was happening in and around the Capital. After these sessions we would retreat to our various lockdown locations to observe the imposed curfew. I do recall chatting with Fergal, although I do not remember the specifics of the conversation I can say I sensed he was truly disturbed by what he had seen in Sierra Leone. This was approximately five years before he reported on the Rwandan genocide, I do recall him saying he had never witnessed anything like he had seen in Sierra Leone, something I doubt he would say after his visit to Kigali.

I mention my meeting with Fergal only because I felt at the time he was under some kind of burden. I could tell he was an eager journalist and for that reason was wary of him. I sensed he was pushing himself into areas he found repellant and disgusting but that he felt somehow driven to do so. I suspect I thought he was reckless, that was/is my default belief regarding most journalists I ever met in areas of conflict. I wondered why he did what he did. I remember thinking how I could account for my own reasoning of what I did for a living but not being quite able to understand his motivation. On reflection I now completely understand what drives a person like Fergal. Additionally, being able to retrospectively assess my own lifes path and having the knowledge and experience of my own PTSD I can understand the desire to be where the action is perceived to be happening. That desire is almost unstoppable and in many cases can prove to be fatal.

Fergal Keane went on to report on hotspots worldwide. I left the Army in 2005 and went directly to Afghanistan, specifically to Kandahar. Although I had witnessed conflict and death whilst I was serving in the Military I never felt as vulnerable as I did when I subsequently moved into the world of Corporate/Private Security. It is true to say that my attitude toward indigenous populations became less compassionate when I was employed by Business rather than Government, although now I see the two entities as the same thing adorned in different garments. Governments are businesses, although I would argue that nations no longer truly exist as they once did, although the illusion of them is sold to their citizens and subjects. Nations hide behind whatever moral superiority they can construct, or create diversions by which they can justify their actions. Businesses buy off and trade with governments, groups and individuals to achieve their goals. Effectively the two different bodies are reaching for the same results utilising similar behaviours, it is only the noises they make which differ. As we move further and further into this model of behaviour the harder it will become to distinguish between Government and Business, some may say we have already attained such a coexistence.

Again I have gone off piste.

In 2008 Fergal’s and my story converge yet again. In that year Fergal found himself in The Priory as did I. My life had spiralled into a kind of madness which found me abusing alcohol and at times more or less homeless. Thankfully a few people helped me, in 2008 I was diagnosed with PTSD. The story of recovery is a long one which continues to this day. I remained working in areas of conflict and was involved in several incidents which could be defined as violent and hostile. In spite of those subsequent events I did not have a return to the depths of despair I experienced in 2008. I have suffered from depression and anxiety sporadically since 2008. I am now better equipped to deal with the fallout of those days although I very much doubt I will ever be completely free of it.

Currently I am struggling with increased anxiety, I am not quite sure why, I don’t think it is unusual to not know why. I have spoken to a few former colleagues recently who have indicated they too are suffering with similar afflictions. I mention this as at the conclusion of Fergal Keane’s documentary he suggested that the thing he has found most useful in his recovery was not necessarily talking to his therapist but to others who had experienced the same damage he had.

Although I am able to rationalise all the above there are times when I fall into a pit I feel I can never crawl out of. The ridiculous thing is it might happen for a period of 24 hours or 3 months. That for me is the scary thing, not knowing if the next time it happens whether I’ll be able to rationalise my way out or not. The anxiety comes from having responsibilities toward others who I care about, I know I can survive in a doorway or a tent, it is those I care about that I worry for.

I write this largely as an exercise in exorcism, it makes me feel better when I express it outwardly. I can do the same with a walk in the woods but I hope that this is somehow of more use beyond my own self.

I definitely do not seek sympathy, neither am I asking for any kind of help I simply find it helpful to be honest about who I am. I have not been a Saint (not that I believe in them) I bare my scars (such as they are) as a badge of honour.

Maybe I’ll get to see Fergal again someday..but he has given up The Drink so it’ll be Tea, I guess.         

    

Sluice

He had a limp, with crooked claw,

Of yellowed eye and snaggled tooth.

His Mother bore him cursed and poor,

Her fetid milk one hundred proof.

 

Suckled sick, he puked her gone,

Was sold to traders, passed around.

Cleaned the floors they’d fucked him on

N’er spoke a word, heard every sound.

 

Now old and bent but twisted straight,

Rejected twin of births foul waste,

He turned the table of his fate,

And cleansed his palate of their taste.

 

Invisible

 

The Museum is a glass monstrosity,

It is an abortion of architecture.

Built to please the eye’s of those not yet born.

 

In a Wing Designated “European Conflict”

there are Weapons displayed with gruesome glee,

Tools once held by young mens hands.

 

Outside in the courtyard refreshments are available.

Children are laughing and playing, joyous noises.

Old men sit, quietly staring at their palms.

  

Limbs

 

Thunderous almighty Hymns

offered up in glory tones,

cannot replace our severed limbs

Or grow new flesh on splintered bones.

 

Nor, all the well oiled smooth prosthetics

fuse a mind flashed white with shock,

enough to jolt what stalled kinetics

Restoring life where now there’s not.

 

Through their smiles and stoic grit

there stalks a shadow lurking low,

and yes I see the curse of it

That only those who’ve lost can know.

 

The pride that shines in Un-warred eyes

is pity inside out,

just like a promise turned to lies

Forgot, it counts for nowt.