31 December 2007

idle remarks

sound like gunfire just the fireworks’ noise
air again polluted after cleansing rain
the foolish who value more than life their toys
are most surprised to note that in the plain
emptinesses of night their sharp disdain
of normal courtesy might seem a sort
of torment to all those who seek the port
of sleep who love the many charms of restt
his night like many will turn out too short
but what we always want is just the best

we leave such matters to the wayward boys
those who through their lives or in the main
attempt to keep their heads up by such ploys
as would their childhood memories retain
that’s the sad purpose of their old campaign
but we know that their plans will just abort
that’s been the steady the constant report
of those who say the sauce now lacks all zest
tonight we have come up with no retort
but what we always want is just the best

as we maintain our charm and equipoise
we hear around us still the antique strain
our subtlest enemy at night employs
to keep us from our sleep and yet again
make all our wishes hard to ascertain
we hide ourselves in bed as in a fort
and try our best our minds not to contort
but all seems turned into a mighty jest
there is no vale to which we might resort
but what we always want is just the best

prince though you’re tempted now to stamp and snort
do not deny yourself your best support
too often others fail the final test
but though the foolish through the streets cavort
their challenge is not one the wise would court
but what we always want is just the best

approaching midnight

as we sit and face the future
there's no one knows just what we'll need
anger breeds on edge of suture
fire declares itself with speed

rhyme and reason fade in panic
fire and water meet in peace
not a one who waits is manic
yet not a one could blame caprice

grant the fire will burn the clover
and mighty flood will cleanse the vale
nothing's left here to recover
none of the wise will hear this tale

shallow paint the world in colour
make the choices come out flat
things will seem to come out duller
the night belongs to angry bat

31 December

The earth passes, once more, the yearly point
and for a moment the times seem in joint;
we thank our friends, not just for their kind hearts,
but for the ways that each with their true arts
provides us with that little bit of light
that we too hope we show against the night.
Life gives us sour, we have to make the sweet,
but we can take our lives, like good rum, neat.
We laugh, we love, we hope in time to meet
with friends far distant; still we take the chance
to smile a moment, step out in the dance,
give forth our wisdom, or in silence sit
with hearts now lightened by the gentle wit
of those who know just how to string a tale.
Now, as the long hard year's time comes to fail,
we send our thanks across the gap of time
and immense space. Happy New Year in rhyme.

Poem or Doggerel?

I can observe the voices rise and swell
defining verse, and what is doggerel;
while others, with hardly time for pause,
proclaim that art is subject to some laws
not stated in plain, ordinary terms.
But what can I (and other suchlike worms)
declare anent a subject of such heft?
With all the force that in me has been left
I'll take no cudgels up, nor seek to hide
the fact that here I will not take a side.
Some find the haiku and the sonnet terse,
and think heroic couplets rather worse
than limericks. But, for my humble part,
I'd say that all craft has its art.
(Did I say humble?) Also, every craft
requires a skill not shown by dull and daft.
It's New Year's Eve, I'll head off to my bottle
and leave in peace the ghost of Aristotle.

as good as kings

by all we know of change we cannot speak
of who would give us shelter from the dark
within the walls of calm and shady park
confirming us among the many meek
defended by strange powers of the weak
we may defy the lion and the shark
not straying one lone inch beyond the mark
as now restraint and harsh reserve are chic
others may toil far underground in mines
or on estates their servile pains renew
but we are not to think upon such things
the measures come we understand the signs
and do not ask just what is in the stew
while thinking that we are as good as kings

a bit of clarity

a bit of clarity comes not amiss
all forms of choice will have their daily run
but who most matters (beneath winter sun)
we do not speak of nothing is like this
in the unreal but hoped-for realms of bliss
some fool will say or threaten with a gun
each person who declares the myth is done
in the real world we seal things with a kiss
at midnight we will find we're not deranged
when we see only night and the deep scars
of memory are given proper due
we do not find the world suddenly changed
but still as far as ever from the stars
and waiting just as long for morning's blue

30 December 2007

we weigh our words

we weigh our words and mete them out with care
the message that we send puts us in dutch
but still and all we're seeing out the year

the signal will be sent with time to spare
to those who will remain beyond our clutch
we weigh our words and mete them out with care

let all the foolish stand about and stare
we find we've used the standard aging crutch
but still and all we're seeing out the year

the ones who worry have never been rare
but we have never thought we would do such
we weigh our words and mete them out with care

not one of us who could be thought a player
nobody claims that we've done very much
but still and all we're seeing out the year

crowds laugh and gather in each village square
not one of whom will truly stay in touch
we weigh our words and mete them out with care
but still and all we're seeing out the year

we turn the calendar

we turn the calendar to the last page
the year is ending with its power of pain
not wholly cleansed by the december rain

so much the wise and witty could not gauge
nor those who are too proud to bear the stain
we turn the calendar to the last page

our tears speak sorrow while our minds speak rage
we would not face this mass of lies again
and with the nightfall not a thing stays plain
we turn the calendar to the last page

29 December 2007

Christmas in Hell

Christmas in Hell
John Maxwell

Christmas in Jamaica is bad enough. One good thing about Christmas Day is that it means the end of weeks of aural assaults by mindless rhymesters perverting songs of worship to paeans of praise for hucksters of all kinds, from shopkeepers to banks, from autoparts dealers to purveyors of cheap, non-returnable, eminently breakable, non-biodegradable trash tricked out in plastic, tinsel and lead paint to lure innocent children and entrap their parents. And, as a bonus, there are the sound-system parties, which allow you to dance in your own home to music played two miles away.

An Alternative Scenario
If you think this is bad, consider another scenario.
Consider that you are a citizen of another land, one steeped in history – a history of resistance to oppression, a history which includes the first proclamation on Earth that all people were equal, including women and children.
This land, which for convenience we'll call Ayiti, was introduced to Christianity by a bunch of marauding savages bearing swords and caparisoned in the fierce colours of their leader, a Genoese adventurer named Cristobal Colon, aka Christopher Columbus. This character had induced Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the monarchs of two Spanish kingdoms –Aragon and Castile – to bet their farms on the discovery of a new route to China, then as now, the fabulous land of magical herbs, spices and other goods which would make life bearable for the inhabitants of Europe, just emerging from the Dark Ages.
Our hero had managed to convince Ferdinand and Isabella on the basis of a map obtained from an African who claimed to know the way to China aka Cipangu. If the Spanish got to Cipangu before their European cousins, great wealth and power would be theirs; all the tea in China would be theirs for the asking, in addition to carpets, silks and luxuries only dreamt of in Europe.
When Columbus' "doom burdened caravels" hove to in Ayiti, the million or so people who welcomed him could never have guessed that they would soon be history. Within thirty years the populations of the West Indies had been so reduced that in the four larger islands now re-christened the Greater Antilles) less than a thousand remained alive in 1519. This is according to the testimony of Bartolomeo de las Casas, a Spanish monk who came with the conquistadors and was an eyewitness to the Conquest. Another historian, Gonzalo Oviedo, estimated that of the one million Indians on Ayiti when the Spaniards arrived, less than five hundred remained half a century later– the "natives and … the progeny and lineage " of those who first occupied the land.
‘They died in heaps, like bedbugs …’
In the Caribbean and in Mexico, Peru and Colombia smallpox and other diseases introduced by the Spaniards killed the 'Indians' by the million. Relatively small Spanish expeditions were able to conquer huge empires because the native populations were swept away by diseases to which they had never been exposed and for which they had no immunity.
Toribio Motolina, another Spanish priest, wrote that in most provinces in Mexico "more than one half the population died; in others the proportion was a little less; they died in heaps, like bedbugs."
More than a hundred years after Motolina, a German missionary writing in 1699, said the so-called Indians "die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up the ghost."
The destruction of the 'American Indian' populations and cultures has meant an incalculable loss to human ethnic and cultural diversity. It was they who gave us words like barbecue, canoe, hammock and hurricane and crops like corn, potatoes, cassava and tomatoes. The people of ancient Egypt, the pyramid builders seem very far away in time; the Olmecs, Maya, Aztecs, and Incas, who also built pyramids and played games very much like basketball, soccer and Jai alai, seem much closer.
To Jamaicans and people of the Caribbean, the sense of loss is almost palpable in relation to the lost civilisations of Africa, destroyed by the slave trade, which, like globalisation, set brother against brother, tribe against tribe and nation against nation.
Africa was targeted because the Europeans knew that their own people could not survive for long in the hot, humid, mosquito-ridden Indies and that sugar, replacing gold, as the commodity most likely to make men rich, was too hard a work for them.
Turning to Africa meant the devastation of many ancient civilisations – many disappearing almost without trace, further impoverishing mankind's cultural diversity and robbing Africa of the populations and skills it needed for its own development.
Although the Europeans found large quantities of gold, silver and copper in the "New World’, gold was never as lucrative as sugar and the cotton and rubber extracted from the plantations of the Americas. And nothing was as lucrative as the slave trade
As Sybille Fischer remarks in her book Modernity Disavowed: “Colonialism in the Caribbean had produced societies where brutality combined with licentiousness in ways unknown in Europe. The sugar plantations in the new World were expanding rapidly and had an apparently limitless hunger for slaves.”

'A wretch like me!'
One of the modern Jamaicans' favourite hymns at funerals is 'Amazing Grace' penned by a slave trader after he retired from the trade, rich and comfortable. It was his way of atoning for his crimes, and perhaps, of saying thanks to God.
Nothing can atone for the misery and degradation imposed on the 25 million or more people transported into slavery or the millions more slaughtered when they fought to avoid capture. Nothing can atone for five hundred years of racist victimisation, nor the five hundred years of brutality and dangerous behaviours, beaten, inculcated and burned into the psyches of the enslaved and their descendants.
The inhabitants of Ayiti, now almost all African, like the people of all the enslaved islands and lands of the Americas, were engaged in an unending struggle to destroy slavery. In Surinam, in Barbados, and Grenada in the United States of America, in Nicaragua and in the Caribbean the slaves rose time after time to break their chains. In Jamaica they had some success. The Maroons fought the much better armed British to a standstill and wrested from them a treaty of non-aggression and non-interference in 1739. It was a treaty soon broken by the British.
Desperation and the will to be free fuelled the Tacky rebellion of 1760. This rebellion dwarfed the Maroon Wars and was an islandwide conspiracy, which lasted six months. The aims of the leaders included driving out the white population, and partitioning Jamaica into principalities in the tradition of the Akan-speaking Koromanti who were at the heart of the rebellion. One of them, a man called Bouckman, fled to Ayiti when the rebellion was finally crushed.
There, in Ayiti, he ignited a struggle for freedom, which ended with the expulsion of the last foreign soldiers from Ayisien soil.
In 1804, after ten years of warfare, the rebel slaves and their free allies defeated the armies of Napoleon (twice), and of Britain and Spain. Dessalines declared Ayiti independent and free and declared the country a refuge from slavery anywhere.
He also pronounced the first known declaration of universal human rights, giving legal equality to all human beings, men, women and children.
It was a hundred and forty four years later, in 1948 that the world caught up with Ayiti in producing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Next December 10, almost exactly a year from now, the world will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nation's proclamation of the Universal Declaration.
The preamble to the Declaration is not very well known. It goes like this:
" Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts, which have outraged the conscience of mankind;
And the advent of a world, in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
"Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction."
The declaration then proceeds to list the basic principles of the declaration beginning with Article 1.which says that
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
And it continues to explain in Article 2 that
“ Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty”.
The declaration is intended to be universal, as was Dessalines’ declaration in 1804. Unfortunately for us there are billions of people in this world including many in this country, who do not enjoy all the benefits of this universal declaration. But some are much worse off than others. Among those are the people of Iraq, of Palestine and right next door to us, the people of Ayiti, that imaginary place where slavery was abolished by the slaves themselves.
In Ayiti, aka Haiti, these rights and the Universal Declaration do not apply.
Rather like the captured Islamists in neighbouring Guantanamo Bay, a little to their northwest, the Haitians all 8 million of them, live in a concentration camp. The Haitian version is designed to stifle their freedoms and liberties and engineered to prevent them from being led by leaders of their own choice.
Nearly four years after US Marine were landed there for the third time in a hundred years, the freely elected president of Ayiti is an exile in South Africa. He was kidnapped from the presidential palace by US Marines led by the US Ambassador to Haiti and transported, as "cargo" with his family to the Central African Republic – the American idea of hell on earth. From there he was rescued in a mission led by the black US congresswoman Maxine Waters and TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson. They chartered a plane and headed off to the Central African Republic themselves to bring President Aristide and his wife Mildred and their two daughters back to the Caribbean. It took them hours of negotiating with the country’s dictator to get him to release the Aristides.
President Aristide came to Jamaica where the government felt constrained by tradition and popular sentiment, to welcome him, but found itself unable to resist US pressure to get him out of the Caribbean.
Aristide's sin was to want to fulfill the mission of his ancestors, to build a paradise on the dungheap left behind by Haiti’s colonisers and exploiters.
Nearly four years later a Haitian president is in office but Aristide's and his people’s enemies are in power.
The country is ruled by the US Ambassador, and is policed by a so-called United Nations force – MINUSTAH whose second commander, a Brazilian General killed himself after a friendly chat with leaders of the Haitian elite.
MINUSTAH’s only distinctions are killing a large number of women and children in their pursuit of so-called bandits who seem to be mainly pro-Aristide youth, and the rape and other sexual abuse of young Haitian children, some as young as ten.
A Dread of Black Freedom
From the earliest days as an independent nation the Americans have feared and dreaded Haiti. As an asylum for escaped slaves, it threatened the slave system in the American south. And after France extorted billions of dollars in gold from Haiti in 'compensation' for the loss of capital (slaves) and land, in Haiti, the US lent money to the Haitians to pay the debt and ruined them with the interest.
As I have said before: while arms never subdued Haiti, it was defeated by the power of financiers in a sinister preview of the modern tactics of the IMF and the World Bank.
Despite all the harassment, the 10,000 murders of activists and leaders, the Haitian people, united in the Fanmi Lavalas, have continued to support their leaders and their culture. A few months ago one of their leaders, Dr. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, was kidnapped after a meeting with some Americans. He has not been heard from since. A few weeks later another leader, Dr Marlyse Narcisse, was kidnapped but released when there was a tremendous howl of Haitian and international outrage that apparently embarrassed the powers that rule Haiti.
And so the Haitians survive, without rights, at the mercy of a United Nations corrupted and intimidated by the power of the United States, Canada and France acting in concert.
The United States, Canada, France and Haiti all signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
They all agreed that “… disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts, which have outraged the conscience of mankind and they promised to make the world a more civilized place.
The spectacle of these three self-styled democracies combining to crush the rights and hopes of 8 million poor people is obscene, but perhaps not as revolting as the fact that Haiti's relatives and friends in the Caribbean, Jamaica and the others, but especially Jamaica, can sit and watch the Haitians’ sojourn in Hell as if they were watching a Disney fantasia or a Christmas Pantomime.
Copyright©2007 John Maxwell

28 December 2007

Drink me!

The Recipe For Fragano
3 parts Giddiness2 parts Naughtiness1 part Flair
Splash of Glamour
Finish off with an olive

winter observation

mauves browns and greens all turning out quite flat
there were no magics hidden in dead leaves
no cards were lurking up the player's sleeves

the rules are clear no time for moral chat
follies collected gathered up in sheaves
mauves browns and greens all turning out quite flat

in winter bears live off their summer fat
on hay we feed the steaming stamping beeves
each tree each bush for the lost season grieves
mauves browns and greens all turning out quite flat

what's most desired

the way to hope long ago closed and barred
gives us good reason to smile at this hour
each memory we cherish then discard
our faces turn from smiling to quite dour
the tastes experienced from sweet to sour
we left the ship tied up at the north quay
turning our backs on the long time at sea
not needing much our feet here to persuade
towards the places only fools would flee
our efforts guarantee we'll make the grade

the wishes we once made have long been marred
by those who find it easier to glower
and leave the hopeful only a sharp shard
our hearts confronting this must quail and cower
around us now the harsh winds rush and scour
allowing not a one simply to be
what we would want nobody would agree
that in the tempest only those afraid
of horrid consequence refuse to see
our efforts guarantee we'll make the grade

those choices never made turn out quite hard
the villains never great are just a shower
of foolish sorts against whom we must guard
and who should never be allowed much power
so that the worst will never come to flower
there are not many who would make the plea
against the ones who hold the golden key
to step aside and just end their charade
that is no reason for such prideful glee
our efforts guarantee we'll make the grade

prince you may watch as under the great tree
the many halt and brew their morning tea
waiting like all of us for the parade
each of us pays the standard entrance fee
since nothing in this life is truly free
our efforts guarantee we'll make the grade

between the storms

raw day in december absence of light
a moment for thought then to bend each back
to make this journey's not a case of right

the change we hope for is both late and slight
a breeze desired arrives on the wrong tack
raw day in december absence of light

we take the winter as a sort of blight
glad we're not huddled in a tiny shack
to make this journey's not a case of right

things seem much worse when days are bright
and underfoot each blade of grass will crack
raw day in december absence of light

we know these powers far greater than our might
not one of us has got the force or knack
to make this journey's not a case of right

indifferent now between the day and night
the time is warmest when the sky's deep black
raw day in december absence of light
to make this journey's not a case of right

missing the rain

missing the rain is not a major crime
we surface into shades of paler grey
cold night just slowly faded into day
the pond below is cleansed of all its slime
no distant bells interrupt with a chime
but nothing moves the year we come to slay
is sliding quickly right out of the way
of all our journeys now we think of time
this is a moment when we long to soak
our weary feet in water more than warm
and let our minds move slower than a crawl
to tell the difference between task and joke
and watch while foolish others join the swarm
all ready to cross over the next wall

27 December 2007

none speaks

none speaks but answers come
the world we have is odd
we learn this from each bod
first thing you eat's the plum

the world reaches its sum
we take it on the nod
not one who's not a clod
but's steady on the bum

the voice is just a hum
but better than the rod
we know beneath the sod
the world is deaf and dumb

26 December 2007

no time to read

those glyphs and symbols vanish in the dark
we do not know then what the message said
but wonder at the wait there's wine and bread
to keep us going but gods spare the mark
not one of us could serve as nighttime clerk
to speak in silence words of those long dead
whose bodies rot now but whose minds were fed
by the same forces that provide our spark
allow your listeners the chance to think
that they too might a memory so leave
upon the rock or on the fortress wall
read by those who at the spring might drink
or by the yard gate pause a while to grieve
knowing so well that silence must befall
the chances of a change now seem so small
but each of us when driven to the brink
would know that nothing's left that might deceive
no parchment here that's innocent of ink
but much to hide from those that raid and reave
and all's recorded with a bit of gall
the choice is made we know it's not a game
and yet each hopes the lion will be tame

25 December 2007

Hope for the future

For one short moment we bid the world peace.
We do no harm, but we are not the ones
who threaten with the power of many suns.

We do not think, while here we take our ease,
about the folk who live beneath the guns;
for one short moment we bid the world peace.

Our hope is that in short time war will cease,
that parents will not mourn daughters and sons
who died for others. The thought of joy still stuns.
For one short moment we bid the world peace.

between the darks

i know the sights and sounds of winter rain
the gloom means less at ending of hard drought
this day is one when all the silent shout
that they have overcome the dark and pain
the water washes out the human stain
there are some rules that none would dare to flout
for fear that pretty soon they'd be shut out
and left bedraggled on the empty plain
we praise the sun returning in its might
we praise the rain praise every single shower
and do not wait to wonder at the door
to all our chances through it day and night
come messengers and signs of every power
and we too soon know all about the score

villanelle for a damp xmas

we do not think to beat upon the drum
announcing the arrival of the day
the needful things are brandy and dark rum

we add the year up and note that the sum
does not account for all lost on the way
we do not think to beat upon the drum

there's silence now we do not hear the hum
of traffic neither see the solar ray
the needful things are brandy and dark rum

each longs for taste of sweetest peach or plum
or sight of sunset deep in bluefields bay
we do not think to beat upon the drum

upon the instruments some beat or strum
and what the meaning is others will say
the needful things are brandy and dark rum

together we face all the facts that come
hurtling upon us the whole thing's just a play
we do not think to beat upon the drum
the needful things are brandy and dark rum

24 December 2007

the only true victory

the only true victory is that we survive
with all our weaknessess all our flaws
still we give the opposition pause

hopes and loves we smile to revive
and laugh when we read the critical clause
the only true victory is that we survive

against all odds we will arise and thrive
as the best agents of our honest cause
against all hope we'll maintain the laws
the only true victory is that we survive

a late discovery

our proper kingdom's in another place
of roots and memories we're not bereft
and now too swift and hurried is the race

the world we have's no longer filled with grace
past is from present by a great sword cleft
our proper kingdom's in another place

we find we're going at too great a pace
our hearts are certain that the action's deft
and now too swift and hurried is the race

none goes before to bear the gilded mace
an object of great value and great heft
our proper kingdom's in another place

not one is certain what's the proper case
nor how to separate the warp from weft
and now too swift and hurried is the race

exhaustion is inscribed deep in each face
we've given all we can nothing is left
our proper kingdom's in another place
and now too swift and hurried is the race

southwest the heading

eventually you just run out of cays
the mainland comes upon you like a shock
even the angry ones fall on their knees

one cannot tell another what he sees
for feelings are so easy still to mock
eventually you just run out of cays

to get there you must go against the breeze
though other forces may your purpose block
even the angry ones fall on their knees

we have so many names for these blue seas
and we still cannot count them dock to dock
eventually you just run out of cays

we drank the bottle right down to the lees
but although others still would not take stock
even the angry ones fall on their knees

so soon a chance to rest and take your ease
once past the threats of shallows reef and rock
eventually you just run out of cays
even the angry ones fall on their knees

the truest tale

the truest tale's that one below the fold
about the monster that lurked by the door
so ugly that the hero's blood ran cold
a thing he said that did not chance before
but more surprises yet they had in store
and many a twist and turn the country lane
until he heard not far away the train
and smelled hot fury of the burning coal
until that point he'd thought himself insane
but now he saw things were under control

long time ago the world was not so old
as it is now but we were very poor
and did not know we had been bought and sold
by those who thought the hero would not score
a victory they would never restore
all things to order that was now quite plain
but following a hero's never vain
and he at least could see the final goal
matters might have been bad then in the main
but now he saw things were under control

i know the story's been so much retold
to furnish hope and build esprit de corps
but neither matters quite so much as gold
since every helper turns out quite the whore
and hunger is the need that's at the fore
while everyone knows how to cleanse the stain
and water's not as tasty as champagne
the hero had to win not just console
there was a time when others got the gain
but now he saw things were under control

prince from all comment you must now abstain
such matters of good stories are the bane
for good sound coin it's wise to sell your soul
the hero had to overcome all pain
and struggled much for glory to obtain
but now he saw things were under control

long past the time

long past the time when we would beauty spurn
we look upon the world with sadder eyes
knowing that each has for a time their turn

the fires that come will not a person burn
but those who know all effort may despise
long past the time when we would beauty spurn

we turned the milk to butter in a churn
we thought it work though not in obvious guise
knowing that each has for a time their turn

the age we find has too soon grown so stern
that all are trapped in a thick web of lies
long past the time when we would beauty spurn

where fire has past there quickly grows the fern
the one thing that the force of man defies
knowing that each has for a time their turn

our only purpose is to teach and learn
while in the distance a lone victim cries
long past the time when we would beauty spurn
knowing that each has for a time their turn


Which Discworld Character are you like (with pics)
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as The Librarian

You’re the Librarian! Once a wizard, now an Orang-utan (due to an unfortunate magical accident), you refuse to be turned back for a few reasons: In this form, it’s easier to reach the shelves and hold more books; having the strength of five men makes people return their books on time; life’s great philosophical questions boil down to “when do I get my next banana?‿ You say “ook‿ but are usually understood well enough.

The Librarian


Carrot Ironfounderson


Gytha (Nanny) Ogg




Esmerelda (Granny) Weatherwax




Lord Havelock Vetinari


Commander Samuel Vimes




Cohen The Barbarian


strategic error

you tell us only what we need to know
or what you think's our truest deepest need
but that turns out to be the cruel deed
from which you sought to guard us so
we are into the wilderness forced to go
unable to deny or to accede
and ignorant of all that was agreed
not knowing if the end comes fast or slow
we find ourselves among the many blind
who fail to understand the normal sign
of what will be a time of hope and cheer
for on our journey none may be so kind
as to provide us with the fruit and wine
that celebrate the turning of the year

23 December 2007

beware it bites

no one would think that those demands are odd
that come from folk who have not felt the sea
or seen its presence drowning rock and tree
as the harsh storm beats hard upon the sod
no time for winking not for gentle nod
hardly a blink and we watch all float free
and learn that meanings do not have to be
inherent in the force of nature's rod
when we come out and look at all below
the world has changed and dozens of new lakes
are filled with residue of tempest wild
we laugh and speak of just a small breeze blow
and keep a brave face up for others' sakes
but each inside must calm the worried child

georgia at midwinter

raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat
no change we're told but just the turning year
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

winter has rushing but not heavy feet
we see much further when the trees are bare
raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat

a host of cars are parked right down the street
and imitation music fills the air
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

the wheel must turn but no one could complete
that longer cycle almost in despair
raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat

armies of clouds advance and then retreat
after some rain the world appears more fair
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

and yet some things remain that are still sweet
we have some joys and pleasures left to spare
raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

rainy midwinter

midwinter and rain
dripping steadily down pipe
cleansing our small world

inside the warmest
thoughts filling our tired minds
as we sip our tea

out of the darkness
swaying shapes of the bare trees
dance against the grey

22 December 2007

Ballade of midwinter

another time will pass with all its shows
and soon enough we'll find we can't recall
the secrets that the mass thought to disclose
each day grew shorter with the year's long fall
over our heads we pulled blanket and shawl
so many things we thought not to forgo
rumours they came and went about the snow
the streets we passed wet or dry still stank
with long ages of putrefaction far too slow
we waited for the stream to burst its bank

there are so many facts we could expose
so many words were whispered in the hall
with many a package tied up in neat bows
the least of things would some small hearts appal
the engines would just sputter and then stall
we'd wait and on our frozen hands would blow
while looking upward at the circling crow
and all was paused behind us rank on rank
elsewhere the urgent seas might ebb and flow
we waited for the stream to burst its bank

the hungry avians gather hawks and crows
there's something here that has issued a call
we dream in vagueness of a summer rose
but all our options have become quite small
the whole parade has halted from a crawl
and not a blessed thing for us to show
but knowledge of just where each has to go
and where the fêted ship was when it sank
all stood there then a single vast tableau
we waited for the stream to burst its bank

prince there are gifts you would not dare bestow
but we are better for the spade and hoe
we know in summer the weeds will be rank
but there'll be time and space for them to grow
as for the rest you do not have to know
we waited for the stream to burst its bank

fresh hope

whatever happens we will see you rise
to heights where others have not been before
the world unfolds itself before your eyes
too often you've been told just to adore
the ones who tell you that they know the score
that those who order are a higher breed
than you or i that they have greater need
for all the benefits money could buy
pay no attention to that ancient creed
the only limits are above the sky

you might have been permitted to surmise
that you had not been taught the complete lore
for fear that too soon would come the goodbyes
perhaps that's so but that touches no core
of all the matters that soon should outpour
from the first moment we planted the seed
we knew a time would come for urgent speed
in consequence we shall tell you no lie
true glory comes in how you do the deed
the only limits are above the sky

we'll send you out with due care and supplies
knowing that very soon you'll take the fore
and proper place among those who are wise
the vastnesses and wonders you'll explore
and find the magic never turns to chore
to all the warnings you'll pay proper heed
always go forward never retrocede
take all the chances that you will espy
don't be detained by foolishness or greed
the only limits are above the sky

young man no future's ever been decreed
nor are there angels that might intercede
there are no magic beings that can fly
but many who might seek you to mislead
learn all the signs to understand and read
the only limits are above the sky

eagerly listening

the theme repeated gives us a fresh lift
our hearts and minds rise swiftly up the air
this gentle rain's the dying year's last gift

through thoughts and feelings each of us must sift
to find the one that brings us greatest cheer
the theme repeated gives us a fresh lift

it does not matter if some fool is miffed
all that is good must fall within our care
this gentle rain's the dying year's last gift

there's time for lavishness and time for thrift
so long as we aren't taken by a snare
the theme repeated gives us a fresh lift

from all our sorrows we should come adrift
leaving the unwise just to wait and stare
this gentle rain's the dying year's last gift

too soon to duty soon we must be swift
and get back to the heart of the affair
the theme repeated gives us a fresh lift
this gentle rain's the dying year's last gift

21 December 2007

journey then and now

our choices always take a country while
afraid to reap because others could sow
in heart of continent we long for isle
where other folk were easier to know
and simple laughter ever à propos
with leaves and flowers always on display
and little worry over length of day
so many things that now we can remark
but then we never knew quite what to say
though past or present we welcome the dark

long years ago some slaves carved the defile
through which still passes the road we would go
along each day though each in youthful style
would think the time we took was just too slow
things never were so simple even so
we still recall how we would once convey
our knowledge of each inch of the long way
the world we had seemed like a giant park
and we turned every duty into play
though past or present we welcome the dark

from every misadventure we'd resile
though each would cry out when they stubbed a toe
yet it was all too easy then to smile
and think that all that passed was just a show
and we could look in even without dough
without disgust and lacking all dismay
reckless of all the places we'd survey
not knowing how our choices would be stark
and always eager to enter the fray
each effort seeming no more than a lark
expecting that still onward we'd sashay
though past and present we welcome the dark

prince while the sun shine's you'd have us make hay
making full use of each declining ray
before on the next journey we embark
you seem to fear that we might go astray
or soon from predator become the prey
though past and present we welcome the dark

The promise

The solstice has a promise: winter's end.
The shortening shadows are a cheering sight,
hope and rejoicing still our human right.

We do not break, but in great pain we bend,
not dreaming of the ones who share our plight;
the solstice has a promise: winter's end.

Warm messages brother and sister send
bring us together in the cheering rite;
dawn comes to finish even this long night.
The solstice has a promise: winter's end.

the highest moment

the highest moment is when we attack
all of time bends into a simple shape
the world itself resolves to white and black

we hope for good things out of the great wrack
of monstrous beings at which idlers gape
the highest moment is when we attack

no one accounts us either lax or slack
but when we look things over on the tape
the world itself resolves to white and black

the palace gives less cover than the shack
not much is hidden by the largest cape
the highest moment is when we attack

we feel our presence as a sort of lack
from which we always hurry to escape
the world itself resolves to white and black

not eager now we huddle at the back
seeing the juice has vanished from the grape
the highest moment is when we attack
the world itself resolves to white and black

unbidden voices

unbidden voices from the past will speak
of matters that we'd rather now forget
but to our hearts we always are in debt
and in our hearts we know best what we seek
in measures that are modern yet antique
the purpose that we urgently abet
will leave us with no measure of regret
we are not strong but neither are we weak
all that we are is measured by the lack
of anger and of pain in our regard
for who we were and what on earth we are
we cannot measure up to the huge stack
of history and all our tasks are hard
but still we know that we will reach the bar

winter begins

dim sky and drizzle wake the sleeping heart
the joy of this is so hard to explain
each laughs a moment to see matters plain

where we shall go was known before the start
all of the mixture happiness and pain
dim sky and drizzle wake the sleeping heart

each actor learns his lines and knows his part
the play's performed and does not take much strain
we watch and smile at the redeeming rain
dim sky and drizzle wake the sleeping heart

villanelle for the solstice

the sunset on a gloomy day will burn
with fires that each will echo on the tree
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

dark night short day the wages that we earn
give us a chance to go upon a spree
the sunset on a gloomy day will burn

for warmer days and nights each heart must yearn
but for a while with green and red to see
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

the ashes of the old go in their urn
we wait with knowledge that all will agree
the sunset on a gloomy day will burn

from all the evils that we seek to spurn
the kind and gentle heart at last shall flee
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

we bid farewell to old care and concern
from pains and sorrows for a time shake free
the sunset on a gloomy day will burn
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

the human race

we leave so many matters of true art
to folk whose souls have never taken wing
or think that they're fit subjects of the mart
we want to think that we hear the sharp ring
of honest gold the clear and decent ching
of metal as we strike down from above
the message we all know is not the thing
but the securest bond is human love

we cannot go back now and just restart
with the initial energy and zing
since time and age will urge us to depart
but we desire to see another spring
for summer's light upon the purple ling
to cast away from us the cumbering glove
hope's in the child we push upon the swing
but the securest bond is human love

we can't forget that each must play a part
one plays the fool while you just play the king
the final word is kept safe in the heart
we listen while another plucks the string
upon the winter winds our blessings fling
and give the happy child another shove
joy gives each note an extra sweeter ping
but the securest bond is human love

prince what you want is what the people bring
while over each head floats the morning dove
each knows the happy moment when we sing
but the securest bond is human love

a winter's tale

each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire
this year will pass we know from old to new
listen to the tale of hope and desire

we hear the legends passed from dam and sire
of how great hero the dread monster slew
each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire

each song is much repeated by each choir
the warming cup each time is thick as glue
listen to the tale of hope and desire

we watch the sparks fly higher ever higher
we walk outside on frost instead of dew
each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire

both wine and wit are much better drier
we tell ourselves as our spirits renew
listen to the tale of hope and desire

we all to higher purpose could aspire
instead we pause and take in all the view
each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire
listen to the tale of hope and desire

20 December 2007

mar atra sol

we listen for the watcher at the gate
to cry us up and bid us now to wake
proclaiming that the sun is in full state
it's time for the last parting word to make
and slip out swiftly lest there be mistake
though heart and clothing alike may be torn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

some say that outcomes are products of fate
an utterance by those who lack a stake
or who don't care a fig at any rate
each slumbering body into action shake
one must depart before the sun may bake
and though the heart feel both sad and forlorn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

each enters and then leaves with stealthy gait
when to all eyes the world's dark and opaque
nobody thinks that time has a swift rate
and when you most will not your soul forsake
you think of all the risks of long heartache
and though we treat this fresh new light with scorn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

the greatest peril lies in waking late
and knowing you've got little time to take
one final kiss as the rules still dictate
then swiftly down the wall and to the lake
unworried by the threat of fox or snake
if the desire's to greet another morn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

a kind of lethargy

a kind of lethargy fills every limb
there's strong desire the anger to disown
that leads to acting on a silly whim
and gets the bravest idiot turned to stone
each of us faces the monster unknown
to all the other heroes on the hunt
so not a one is there to hear each groan
or laugh at yet another stupid stunt
the loser turns out not to be the runt

where life and horror seem to intersect
as if the stars and planets could align
to proclaim our hopes base and abject
in face of pain and sorrow to divine
just who belongs and who has the death sign
the whole event turns out to be a game
and to the watcher all must seem just fine
with no excuse for pride or even shame
since all that's shown is neat within its frame

a kind of mortal magic we might find
on all the pathways that we choose to tread
we're not the best or worst of humankind
but too few thoughts remain inside each head
and all the lines that lead to home are dead
we have to find our way back through the rain
without a backward glance and without dread
knowing that every step would bring more pain
we do not plan to go that way again


the truth is not something that any blurt
in words and phrases suitable for court
nor yet a matter easy to assert
even on subjects of greatest import
we resent every injury or tort
but will not against any foes combine
our plans are individual by design
and we are not to rash adventures prone
we will not be submissive or supine
but stand as solid as the walls of stone

there's proper time to wave the bloody shirt
as both initiative and stern retort
we would not have you think us just inert
nor think that our hopes are easy to thwart
we're never safe not even in strong fort
but need to stand firm and to hold the line
against the ones we know to be mere swine
our weapons we have ready from the hone
they will not find us to be passive kine
but stand as solid as the walls of stone

our tasks require that we stay on alert
a warning's never seen as jest or sport
we aren't the ones who'll fall into the dirt
only a fool would think to catch us short
and to their shaping we shall not contort
our plans and purposes but will define
the manner how our forces shall align
and cut their bodies right down to the bone
we shall not show weakness or lack of spine
but stand as solid as the walls of stone

prince we shall not to any threat resign
ourselves to be the ones whose heads incline
before some lord who sits upon a throne
to serve him while he and his vassals dine
we will not cower and we shall never whine
but stand as solid as the walls of stone

the obvious mistake

the lies once you have heard them seem quite plain
truth is a crazy uncle whose tall tales
will drive you mad the thing is that truth fails
to seem as plausible as simple pain
it does not offer us the instant gain
but holds the frame up with its golden nails
beside it the old lie just dulls and pales
but to accept truth seems just too much strain
so the dull lie becomes the one we choose
for brightest truth is read as one more snare
and we are wary of all likely traps
thus in the end we make ourselves to lose
not from the lack but the excess of care
though all seems fine until the last collapse

19 December 2007

night beginning

dusting of stars
up in the sky
the lights of cars
go swiftly by
a single tree
covered with lights
is what i'll see
on all these nights
too cold to walk
too old to dance
no time to talk
a proper chance
to be inside
away from cold
no place to hide
the storied gold
an age or two
may slowly pass
what's old is new
returning grass
we long for spring
and its warm light
the kind of wing
for honest flight
and so we pause
and think a while
of the firm laws
that none defile
the time to smile
the time to speak
the longest while
the shortest week

another planet

empty the ocean vacant all the land
a single bird cries although none will hear
there is no human who would understand

all things are tied up with a neat riband
the made and unmade are no longer near
empty the ocean vacant all the land

we look in vain for a creative hand
or for a heart to hold the world still dear
there is no human who would understand

the silence and the noise were both unplanned
and not a one is left to shout or cheer
empty the ocean vacant all the land

no music comes from instruments of band
no critic speaks generous or austere
there is no human who would understand

not even echo upon this last strand
absence alike of courage and of fear
empty the ocean vacant all the land
there is no human who would understand

watch is being kept

all of our hopes from us are forced apart
above us all the watching moths may flit
while down below bodies pile on a cart
the whole of life goes down into the pit
and in the end the world just turns to shit
as through all decency the great ones bore
the end of justice is an obscene score
and with the consequences we are stuck
dame liberty's paraded as a whore
and not a soul would seem to give a fuck

the truth's a subject for trade in the mart
on words of honour the vile ones will spit
while on the ground the rats and roaches dart
the public spaces are but meanly lit
the murderers are those the courts acquit
and honesty's a word that makes folk snore
prevarication falsehood that's in store
with honest speech and decent there's no truck
the garbage just piles up on every shore
and not a soul would seem to give a fuck

the worst statistics just fly off the chart
to fools and liars we're told to submit
while all the leader does is belch and fart
there are no crimes that he would not commit
and readiness to torture is called grit
while freedom has been locked up in a drawer
the young are taught all kindness to abhor
and praised for cleanliness when deep in muck
above all this no bird would dare to soar
and not a soul would seem to give a fuck

prince you've proclaimed an age of endless war
to common sense and hope have shown the door
while you declare that you have mastered luck
the mice are dancing on the dirty floor
still you have promised you will do much more
and not a soul would seem to give a fuck

and so it goes

into a simple word time won't congeal
we're always driven by the need for haste
still rest and contemplation have appeal
though as we surmise not to every taste
the memory we cherished long erased
each day we drive each other to the chase
not sure or knowing how each ugly case
will lead us from the intuitive leap
will keep us distant from a vast disgrace
we solve each problem while we're fast asleep

our purpose in the end to sign and seal
certification of the warmth embraced
by those who will in time to justice kneel
the first desire is by the best replaced
and in clear amber memory's encased
we won't forget that moment's interface
though others might our steady path retrace
we know those things that in recall we'll keep
behind protection both of sword and mace
we solve each problem while we're fast asleep

each turning of the annual star-wheel
returns us to the signs we long have faced
to see the sparks take flight from clashing steel
in manner that no one could find debased
we find no honour in excess and waste
but for a coming onslaught we must brace
acknowledging that all change comes apace
and reasons for the process are not deep
not one of us will turn out a scapegrace
we solve each problem while we're fast asleep

prince you withdraw from us your normal grace
afraid what happens when we reach your place
there's time to laugh and far more time to weep
but all in time will lose the longest race
to other voices we must grant due space
we solve each problem while we're fast asleep

18 December 2007

late evening

what's absent from the day is present here
no mention of the shadow is complete
without explaining just how its defeat
brings its return since it is what we fear
most of all things we hold nothing so dear
that we would serve our turn on judgment-seat
to listen as the liars vainly bleat
knowing that what they earned is very near
instead we give ourselves to mistress night
in all her mysteries we sink so deep
that we forget the words we have to say
to pass from dark into another light
when we awake from just a little sleep
to find it has so long been clearest day

enduring purpose

all good we've done we could not quick forswear
but anger and desire must ever strive
within the heart of each human alive

the limits are so very hard to bear
it's far too easy just to take a dive
all good we've done we could not quick forswear

in the long end we find that each must care
not just for self but that more good will thrive
in every heart and that truth will survive
all good we've done we could not quick forswear

only one heart

the world we know is more than just a game
but who can play becomes more than a man
or woman but if we each human scan
we do not find in each a heart of shame
to honour and to prize an honest name
and not let decency come under ban
that's in the end the truest sort of plan
to light in normal hearts the open flame
so that the light will issue from each eye
to guide the ones who walk on wobbly feet
straight on the pathway to the friendly gate
we watch all this beneath a fading sky
not knowing when again with friends we meet
but still secure and happy in our state

a sort of hope

allow no signal to reach honest ground
you fear no power moving on land or sea
but always in the distance is the sound
allow no signal to reach honest ground

you are not sure just what it is was found
by one who saw the thing you would not see
allow no signal to reach honest ground
you fear no power moving on land or sea

all that we know is what might come to be
if we permit a message to get through
the ones who know are swiftest now to flee
all that we know is what might come to be

nothing we do will let any agree
just what should be allowed in common view
all that we know is what might come to be
if we permit a message to get through

there's frost outside where yesterday was dew
almost it seems that we have journeyed far
since everything we see has turned out new
there's frost outside where yesterday was dew

we look above for any sign of blue
but all the clouds form a steady grey bar
since everything we see has turned out new
there's frost outside where yesterday was dew

what has been made we would not deign to mar
the things we see are set out very plain
and nothing that we understand's bizarre
what has been made we would not deign to mar

we wait to see the first revealing star
appear to occupy its true domain
what has been made we would not deign to mar
the things we see are set out very plain

the truth we seek rejects all vulgar gain
as being just another sort of game
we wait so long for the redeeming rain
the truth we seek rejects all vulgar gain

all that is known resolves itself amain
into an entity that's not so tame
the truth we seek resolves all vulgar gain
as being just another sort of game

we do not put out the amazing flame
that will illuminate far past our bound
each gives the new experience a
name we do not put out the amazing flame

there is no reason ever to post blame
when honour is the tune that must resound
we do not put out the amazing flame
that will illuminate far past our bound

let the power fall on i

all rules when we dislike them turn out hard
decrees that bite our feet we do abhor
almost as much as if we had been scarred
by angry tiger springing from the floor
striking each face then heading for the door
and sprinting thence into the shielding rain
leaving us all to think of luck and pain
and happy not to think of might-have-been
yet not willing raging impulse to rein
since sorrow seems much better than chagrin

against our sort the armies stand on guard
the agencies of a superior law
keeping the gate of freedom locked and barred
and every ship most firmly tied ashore
the watchmen stationed upon every tor
will not let any of us flee again
no matter the safe guises we might feign
for help to us is certified as sin
and only the divine can govern plain
since sorrow seems much better than chagrin

change and disaster they hope to retard
all of our actions they will swift deplore
and any subtlety they'll soon discard
lest by some means we equity restore
theirs is the love of flowing blood and gore
the tyrant's measure and the butcher's gain
from every act of kindness they'll refrain
since all they need is to conquer and win
and not at all important is the stain
since sorrow seems much better than chagrin

prince you may hear the ever-rising strain
that tells of what should be the soldiers' bane
that all of us are brothers under skin
to hold the tide the armies strive in vain
as they hear thunder coming down the lane
since sorrow seems much better than chagrin

fullest encounter

no giants left now for none else would dare
to raise these structures on the mountaintop
you see them and your heart comes to a stop
naught's left of man so high in the clean air

we climb the rocks and have no time to spare
while far below each farmer reaps his crop
each swift machete highest heads will lop
naught's left of man so high in the clean air

allow us for a moment just to stare
while over a low dam the stream will slop
our hearts are awed by sight of the long drop
naught's left of man so high in the clean air

we think a moment that life is not fair
and any innocent's soon for the chop
yet we must know as on the seat we flop
naught's left of man so high in the clean air

what we recall is our duty of care
while with another soul we wouldn't swop
just where we are for any task of shop
naught's left of man so high in the clean air

17 December 2007


to act or think is never to deprave
for those who do will never have the need
for foolish choices or to fake the brave
demeanour of the folk of truest breed
we are not those who ought to pay due heed
or to be closed and silent as the clam
the one who is determined they'll succeed
will do much more than give a tinker's damn

the ones who think they know will merely rave
at all the excellence and proper speed
we show and when they tell us to behave
discover that we know it's just their greed
they will not listen to those who must plead
for help in countering the old flim-flam
we know however those who hope exceed
will do much more than give a tinker's damn

we understand we must not only crave
the benefits to which we have agreed
but must our golden messages engrave
on walls which any passer-by can read
the tide that comes in too soon will recede
before we all in the last boat might cram
who take the thought for lesser than the deed
will do much more than give a tinker's damn

prince you are much too certain to concede
that full grown sheep's worth more than infant lamb
the proper agent it has been decreed
will do much more than give a tinker's damn

no waiting

there is no limit to honest desire
but only to the bequest and the dower
it takes but little to set hearts afire

nobody does the things that we require
unless we've come at a propitious hour
there is no limit to honest desire

there are so many who we might admire
who turn out in the end to be a shower
it takes but little to set hearts afire

the ones who work who know how to perspire
will not in face of normal hardship cower
there is no limit to honest desire

choices we have though some are now most dire
but that is not enough to turn us sour
it takes but little to set hearts afire

although hard effort only serves to tire
still it's enough to bring us to full power
there is no limit to honest desire
it takes but little to set hearts afire

summer swallow

no reason now to disregard or flout
any who come in with a noble air
it's far too easy for a fool to spout
all sorts of nonsense without any care
but honesty and decency are rare
while human kindness has not been a thing
of which a single soul has been aware
the summer swallow is not on the wing

the ones who know not what they talk about
will all complain that life is never fair
but none of them has yet been racked with doubt
about the duties that they have to bear
no thought of honour have they now to spare
but all of them desire to have a fling
before the coming of dark and despair
the summer swallow is not on the wing

the ones who talk are not the most devout
regarding their desires but they will stare
at anyone who comes to jump and shout
in celebration at the village square
they will resist the anger and the glare
but should be ready soon to leap or spring
upon the ones who'd never think to dare
the summer swallow is not on the wing

only the coward fears to suffer rout
the rest of us will see what we can bear
in facing perils we hope to be stout
and keep our spirits in the best repair
the best will all the foolery forswear
while to the fray they will their honour bring
that is the fine thing about this affair
the summer swallow is not on the wing

future perfect

we do not hide our light beneath the rock
but jump in horror as bats flee the cave
at top of hill we turn and look and wave
and far below a ship comes in to dock
no one should make the choice to praise or mock
when nothing we can do would help to save
the greatest one from falling into grave
and that should be neither surprise nor shock
the value that we find even in ink
on creamy paper need not make us tense
even if all that we need do is look
the very thought will bring us to the brink
and leave us gasping at the lack of sense
in those who are so easy brought to book

16 December 2007

growing up

this is red earth we can't remove the stain
no matter time spent on the washing board
our solemn purpose goes against the grain

of what we wanted remade or restored
by concrete action after rapid thought
since there's so much that we cannot afford

unless by our own efforts it's been wrought
before the coming of the hoped-for storm
that consummation which we have long sought

but to the tale the truth is there's no form
in which we can present the honest case
that does not quickly move far from the norm

we seek the recognition in each face
to let us know that we have made it safe
into the country of our dwelling place

against so many bonds we have to chafe
to find ourselves at the start of the road
with better hope than has the homeless waif

who too soon finds she cannot read the code
although it's written in an ink so black
that any who could reach a sure abode

would hope that none could see the path or track
nor be led onward by a clever nose
since it is never easy to turn back

once you have set upon the way of those
who give you hope that you can play a rôle
that sets you higher than your erstwhile foes

in early morning you won't see a soul
who has no purpose just like yours to keep
and isn't aiming at a similar goal

the ones who pose the greatest danger sleep
and only you are left to walk so far
and venture into oceans as deep

and into countries that are as bizarre
as any that are dreamt by those that smoke
from the green pipe or use the fat cigar

but that hard purpose serves as a mere cloak
over the shape of hopes that no undue
choices will lead to renewal of yoke

upon the one who merely seeks to view
the many realms that come from joyful art
old as mankind but each life will renew

the hope that's proper to each human heart
and keeps it light and ready still to glow
when each of us will play our honest part

in doing more than putting on a show
that will reward most at the start of night
and thus ensure that each who plays may go

forward with certainty into the light

in due fashion

upon this journey anyone can join
with those who venture far beyond the line
across oceans through valleys serpentine
for wages that are paid in more than coin
the sort of reward no thief could purloin
a kind of surety that won't decline
in value or in meaning that is fine
in places where the boundaries adjoin
no one who chooses can deny their stake
in answers given in an honest mode
by those who knowingly have cut the cord
not out of anger but for freedom's sake
and taken their worn hearts out on the road
letting all resentments go by the board

strategic art

there is good reason not to give a name
to all the harms about which we could read
some things deserve to have but little fame
what value lies inherent in the deed
is not a matter about which we plead
since you and others may with right complain
that any feeling that we show we feign
but we intend that you have a fair shake
as fortune may not swiftly come again
our best approach should not be a mistake

there was a time when we valued acclaim
above the elements of any creed
and did not ever want to hide in shame
when facing the explorer on his steed
but now we're driven by the deepest need
to halt the bastard and to seize the rein
and let him then fall limply to the plain
as sacrifice to the devouring snake
that way we can avoid a long hard pain
our best approach should not be a mistake

sometimes we have to accept all the blame
for letting others get away with greed
since we have got some honour to proclaim
and no desire to injure or mislead
we want to move things at the proper speed
and not on good ambitions set a brake
you will discover that we've taken heed
our best approach should not be a mistake

prince you appear to have at last decreed
an end to waiting the way to succeed
is not to pause because the view's opaque
nor let the sense of urgency stampede
our hearts into some ultimate misdeed
our best approach should not be a mistake

the way to go

there's always choice to be happy or glum
to do just one task or to do much more
but no one bothers to add up the sum
there's no gigantic parent keeping score
once we depart there is no other shore
as one thing ends no other need begin
the way you live's the only way to win

no reason though to go upon the bum
but to do what will make it not a bore
till we return to where we started from
with all achieved and no need to be sore
avoiding all the things that we abhor
and keeping to a mininum the spin
the way you live's the only way to win

the world we want is not a horrid slum
but horrors are too many to ignore
still no reality can make us numb
or keep us from the things that we adore
as long as we know what we're aching for
and what we do's better than where we've been
the way you live's the only way to win

to master life's worth far more than a crumb
to do our work and then pass through the door
to the smart rhythm of a lively drum
having done nothing that we could deplore
but borne our load and wielded a good oar
to face the last dead halt without chagrin
the way you live's the only way to win

a better prospect

no answer comes from shadow in the dawn
the morning light today is weak and pale
we see the waning year begin to fail

all seems so dull on driveway and lawn
we bring ourselves to understand the scale
no answer comes from shadow in the dawn

a different sort of picture might be drawn
when i've gone out to retrieve the day's mail
and obtained repetition of old tale
no answer comes from shadow in the dawn

15 December 2007

hidden from the road

the water in the pond is still and green
reeds on the edge are bending in the breeze
in the far distance sounds of a machine

the pathway fails to reach a place unseen
by human eyes unknown what the toad sees
the water in the pond is still and green

we climb on upwards since we're young and keen
and at this point not very hard to please
in the far distance sounds of a machine

each of us here is in a place between
what we once were and where we'll find our ease
the water in the pond is still and green

in front of us nothing acts as a screen
nor tells us that all change comes by degrees
in the far distance sounds of a machine

the moving air just makes the rushes lean
once we are gone others will laugh and tease
the water in the pond is still and green
in the far distance sounds of a machine

just a quattie

out in the field i found a silver piece
just one little bright gleam under the shade
the face of a queen the date it was made

for more than a century it had lain at peace
but then i took it without any aid
out in the field i found a silver piece

of no import to me just a caprice
i seized it up from where it long had laid
while i was wondering just how it had strayed
out in the field i found a silver piece

no easy conquest

the force that faces us is harsh and stark
and though it is the way we most abhor
our sole defence is to rely on dark
not for its understanding or rapport
but for a power from which to extract more
than human spirits normally could spare
so that it gather's in the midnight air
until we can its full purpose assign
what happens then we simply will not care
we drink our final toast in the best wine

you note that in the distance is the mark
we have most feared since leaving our last door
on hearing the large dogs begin to bark
the beings that will swiftly slash and gore
laughing as they made our life's blood pour
at all the sufferings we would not bear
as at our tender flesh they roughly tear
so at the urgent final rally sign
our hope's to drag them all into a snare
we drink our final toast in the best wine

this is no safe and verdant rural park
but open to each angry shout and roar
and ready to ignite at the least spark
as understood by all who know the score
but we might still our tattered hope restore
causing our foes to do more than beware
the day may still be ours all gone quite clear
and it may yet our victory enshrine
or at the very least give them a scare
we drink our final toast in the best wine

prince you would give us counsels of despair
to lay our arms down in the village square
but that is not our wish nor our design
although our luck may hang on a thin hair
we're not the yielders in this hard affair
we drink our final toast in the best wine

no other option

we live with choices that we did not make
for all the joys we have and all the shock
we find that only some will have it jake

the one approach that we disdained to take
brought with it revenue we dared not mock
we live with choices that we did not make

the water's never risen in the lake
we've all seen those left stranded on the rock
we find that only some will have it jake

the messenger announces no mistake
we've lost the thing on which we had a lock
we live with choices that we did not make

it's always someone else who gets to rake
in tons of money from successful stock
we find that only some will have it jake

the bread we eat we never learned to bake
we've never launched a boat from the sea dock
we live with choices that we did not make
we find that only some will have it jake

A Licence for Malingerers

A Licence for Malingerers
John Maxwell

The Man from Ham Walk
Jacob Taylor was a short, thick man with the face of an amiable pugilist, the sort of guy children immediately adopt as a sort of honorary uncle. He was the epitome of the Jamaican civil servant, a man who did his job diligently, without hope of recognition, without fear, favour or any interest except that of the public he served.
I first met him in the newly established office of the Beach Control Authority ( BCA) on Beechwood Avenue, just about opposite to the present headquarters of the Jamaica Observer. I was the first reporter to check out the newly established BCA, I went to interview the Secretary and Chairman of the Authority. Unfortunately the Chairman, Mr H.D Tucker, was not there but I spoke to the secretary, Mr Dujon and I met a lifelong friend in Jacob Taylor, then his assistant. He was proud of the fact that he was born in Ham Walk, near Linstead and without doubt its most notable citizen.
For the next forty years Jacob was to devote himself to securing rights of access to Jamaican beaches for the Jamaican people. Some beaches were easy – nobody was interested in building hotels on them. One such was the Winniefred Rest Home beach at Fairy Hill in Portland. That was then.
Other beaches had to be fought for. Jacob was the unassuming general in a guerilla war against private interests that had recently heard about the attractions of beaches for tourists and were trying to incorporate them into their estates as quickly and as ruthlessly as possible.
Most of Jamaica’s beaches had until then been of no interest to landowners. Ordinary people beached their fishing boats or went for dips in the sparkling waters when they chose – often innocent of clothing. My father, a Baptist parson, often baptized people at Derby beach, now Silver Sands. In the early 1950s it suddenly became clear that beaches were desirable properties.
Within a few weeks of taking up his job Jacob could probably have recited by heart the Beach Control Act, Law 56 of 1955,. He was to become the very personification of justice for thousands of Jamaicans, fishermen and others whose free and easy access to the sea was now threatened by people hoping to make fortunes from tourism.
Jacob took the law seriously, and when he became Secretary of the BCA, aggressively defended the prescriptive rights of poor people to the beaches despite expensive legal challenges from such as Teddy Pratt of Mammee Bay and Lady Price of San San. Laughing Water is a public beach reserve, according to the law but not according to the powers that be.
What Jacob could not prevent, was the wholesale annexation of north coast beaches facilitated by the government of Sir Alexander Bustamante. The first government of independent Jamaica pushed people off the beaches by the simple expedient of relocating the highway which had until then, run along the coast. The relocation removed the sea views as well as the access to the beaches. Prospect Beach (‘Reggae beach’), Llandovery and San San were among the more egregious examples. At San San, before the road was moved, the aptly named Coldhardour Ltd, promoters of the development, put a fence in the sea beside the road, as I reported in Public Opinion forty years ago. The so-called car park at San San is in fact, the remains of the public highway and a monument to land capture by the rich.
In the seventies Jacob renewed his efforts to secure the beaches, introducing training, examination and certification for lifeguards, and building changing rooms and toilets.
By the time he retired in 1995, he had ensured that of Jamaica’s 488 miles of coastline, there were 20 miles of public beach to balance the 20 miles of privately licensed beach.
Since then a new breed of public official has emerged, particularly in the UDC – an entity that I describe as the Ultimate Devastation Conglomerate. Another disaster is the new National Environmental Protection Authority – NEPA – which some environmentalists describe as Never Ever Protect Anything.
Jacob’s legacy is being destroyed by the erosion of the public’s rights to the beaches. The UDC fought strenuously to take away the Hellshire beach from the fishermen – claiming to own the beach when the fishermen did – and bulldozing the houses of the fishermen calling them squatters.. They have also in my view, cheated the fishermen of their inheritance by restricting them to a smaller than agreed area and by continual harassment which makes cooperative development of the beach impossible. The UDC wants the beach for an upscale exclusive private development.
NEPA, which in Jacob’s day was the NRCA, was asked to do its public duty to protect the public interest in the prescriptive rights of access to Winniefred beach. They appeared to agree and then, without notice to the people who petitioned them, withdrew from the case without warning or giving any reason.
Beaches and open space are essential for the leisure and recreation of the people. Those who would deny the people their rights are putting a rod in pickle for themselves. Hellshire and Winniefred Beach in Portland are two of the last remaining public recreational areas in Jamaica. – areas where people can bathe without danger.

Ninety Days to Perdition
The government's headlong pursuit of the Great Development Myth is going to land all of us in serious trouble before we are much older.
Tourism is seen as the magic bullet for "Development" and this means destroying the environment of Jamaica and taking away public rights in order to build cruise ship piers and exclusive resorts for foreigners.
The energy crisis, global warming and the coming worldwide depression will soon put paid to all the dreams of cruise ship heaven and artificial attractions.. Our frenzied pursuit of tourist-factory-farming will bequeath to us expensive white elephants in the shape of hotels on beaches ravaged by super hurricanes, cruise ship piers without cruise ships and a population having to pay for expensive 'developments' which are unable to pay for themselves.
The government, in an effort to cut through red tape and speed up 'development' is proposing to institute a mandatory 90-day turnaround time for approval of new projects by NEPA.
This will not even allow time for an effective Environmental Impact Assessment. It seems that developers are constitutionally unable to give adequate notice of their projects although most of these projects have been months and years in conception. They wait till the last minute and blackmail civil servants by claiming massive loss of profit if permission is not granted immediately.
The Jamaica Environmental Action Network (JEAN) – of which I am proud to be a member – has taken objection to this proposal on the ground that the new rules will open the development process to anarchy.
JEAN is concerned by two things: one is the inability of the NEPA to make up its mind and to make effective rules for developers and the other is the fact that when NEPA does make rules it takes no action when these rules are defied, ignored, or broken.
One example, supplied by JEAN will explain the point;
"… the environmental permit granted by NEPA to Hoteles Pinero Jamaica Ltd. (HOJAPI) to build the Gran Bahia Principe Hotel requires that :- (a) the sewage treatment plant (STP) be built in accordance with submitted designs; (b) the Ministry of Health be advised before commencement of construction of the STP, at 50% completion, at 90% completion and on commissioning; and (c) that the effluent from the plant must confirm to NEPA standards. What in fact happened? The sewage plant was not built according to the specifications, we are unaware whether or not the Ministry of Health has ever issued an approval letter for the "as built" plant, only one notification was done at 50% construction, and following tests … the effluent was not in conformance with standards. None of the three government agencies that could apply sanctions to the hotel – NEPA, the Ministry of Health and/or the Water Resources Authority – has done so."
If NEPA wants to 'speed up the process of development approval" the simplest option is simply to do nothing. That is, simply follow their Standard Operating Procedure.
Theoretically, new mining operations require an Environmental Impact Assessment. As far as I know NEPA has never asked for any, and one result is the new mining pit which will destroy part of the Spur Tree Hill Road out of Mandeville (see photograph) The people of Mandeville were never given the opportunity of deciding whether they wanted their landscape disfigured and their road destroyed. They are allowed to watch it happening, without the intervention of NEPA or any other government authority.
NEPA's demonstrated preference is for what Jacob Taylor described to me years ago as the ultimate deterrent to action by civil servant: "Masterly Inactivity" – a process made into an art form by NEPA. The procedure is simple: documents are simply passed from one functionary to another, each declining responsibility, until one day the file ends up on the floor of some secure vault, an archive of blasted hope and frustrated initiative. Under the new rules, this is the way forward.
I believe that the Prime Minister and his Minister of Health and Environment should meet urgently with members of the environmental and public interest lobby. If we Jamaicans do not understand the rules and procedures of sustainable development we will find ourselves in a political and economic backwater, drifting aimlessly in a sea of pollution, erosion and despair. The environmental lobby is not against development, it is simply opposed to unsustainable, destructive and expensive “Development”.
There are numberless examples of the perils of uncontrolled, unmonitored and unregulated development, from Times Beach and the Love Canal, to Minimata and the poisoned rivers and flattened forests of Amazonia.
All of those disasters happened in places with lots more land space than ours, yet their effects have been horrendous. Our small size means that our mistakes will be magnified. The sewage from the houses at San San will eventually destroy the swimming there. The sewage in the sea at Bahia Principe (see photo) will poison not only those to the windward – the people of Pear Tree Bottom – but everyone beyond. The sewage from Portmore and Kingston Harbour is now being exported to Hellshire and points west. Fertiliser from sugar estates and sewage from hotels is ending up on Negril’s corals and beaches.
Jamaica is a small place and we cannot afford to make even small mistakes. The world is a small place and every mistake we make is added to every other mistake made by everyone else.
That's why the Arctic icecap is melting and the beaches are disappearing at Negril.
We have only one Earth, one Jamaica. And we have one duty, not to leave the world a worse place than we found it and in fact, to make it better for those who follow us.
Copyright©2007John Maxwell