Refugee

I cage a ride out of Africa,
a boat packed with war-torn emissaries,
a crew of blind, leprous kids.
Behind me,
only the afternoon of a broken sun.

Here, the sea alone, is sea,
time alone, can be without hours of dread,
air alone, without the indrawn breath,
and the sky, an arc into all directions.

Out here, what is state,
or territory for the unmoored?
What is symbol?
The ocean takes us all in her abundant folds,
like a flag or a body bag.
Here, at last, we are free.

But my fellow refugees
know no other way
than how to recreate ancient animosity,
and replay the whole hopeless farce
of our scorched memory
on this waterlogged plank.

Already the society of worms
breeds in our midst,
division of skin,
and words sharpened into toads.
Already the new world is old.

Those who die,
we slip into the quiet, waiting water
and watch them float like buoys
marking the failure of our diplomacy.
We could have rebuilt a country of love
on this raft lost beyond the dry earth,

a brief paradise
between the weapons we left behind
and those that await us.
Countries and martyrs revolve
in our starved minds.
We send our dead ambassadors
ahead to shore.

Nineteen Fourteen

1914 was a gorgeous year.

God out did himself.

It was a summer fit for

ennui, revelry,

jaunts in motorcars

along the Cote d’Azur,

the Dover cliffs,

the Austrian Alps.

And the nights,

they were sprinkled

with the laden scent of lavender,

the sound of drunken songs

on the Unter den Linden.

1913 had been awful by comparison,

rained all summer,

and the people,

cooped up inside,

played quoits

or listened to the stiff phonograph

squeaking out Caruso.

But 1914 was splendid,

with balls and picnics

and plenty of love-making

that June and July.

And the fields of Flanders

bloomed with a million poppies,

bloodshot,

like the revelers

who stumbled into them,

drowning,

waking up to a hangover.

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow