Our Children from a Distance See

Our children from a distance see

We only say that we are free

 

If we were pharaohs, queens and kings

what good was it to be those things

 

if we are not united here

and walk in self-hate, terror, fear,

 

when those that came before us fought

and those who learned were those who taught

 

and passed on knowledge, trade and thought

that cost the flesh the whip had wrought?

 

I think if we are truly free

We can’t keep blaming slavery

 

For our condition in this land

It’s time to take another stand

 

For Martin’s gone, and Malcolm too

It’s up to us now what to do

 

Together it takes you and me

To change the things our children see

 

 

 

 

Black Magi

Black Magi

your strength is wasted,

killing over slabs of

cracked, crumbling concrete

that will outlast

the return

of your bones

to dust

 

Black Magi

your lives are wasted

when the blood

of your

slain brother

soaks your soul,

and the wails

of his mother

are your lullaby

as you look at the same

Moonlight

through the bars of your cell,

and she does the same

through her gone baby’s eyes.

 

Black Magi

your knowledge is wasted

in kilos of grams,

hidden in luxury cars,

poisoning our future,

your neighborhood,

chipping at foundations

you desperately need.

But you got yours, right?

 

Black Magi

your wealth is wasted

on basketball shoes that are

Free

to the person they’re named after,

made by slaves in other foreign lands

(you know you’re not home, right?)

 

Black Magi

Gather your belongings

Now

 

Call your loved ones to your side

Today

 

Black Magi

the stars bid you

travel far,

and one of them falls

when one of you

turns back to die

 

Black Magi

Your son has questions

only you

can answer

 

Black Magi

Your daughter

has smiles

only you

can share

 

Black Magi

Your woman

cries tears

only you

can dry

 

Black Magi

The years of

your harvest

are spent in rehab,

then just spent,

And poisoned seeds

again take root

through the husk

of what used to be

Fertile and Wise and Strong,

the shell of what used to be

You

 

Black Magi

Stop

Think

Repent

But mostly,

Stop.

When Grandfather Stood Up

Grandfather,

they made you

bow your head

and not

look at them

because, they said,

you were unworthy

 

they made you

bend your back

to place burdens on it

no man should have to carry

and told you

to carry it

 

they made you

quiet the warrior

within you

and told you

to swallow

your pride

and bite

your tongue

And be a

‘good nigger’

 

And you did

because

you

were standing up

for

me

Where Prayers Go to Die

Unheard, or unanswered?

Does it matter now?

Their prayers lifted high in tender faith,

were shattered by the godfist in derisive mockery.

 

The eyes close,

the grip weakens,

the sight fades,

and the breath grows shallow,

 

and they are free.

 

But the gods are not where they’re going

And the river is black and cold

 

They can have no vessel of silver

They’ll receive no provision of gold

 

And stone by stone,

the ghosts tear the walls

apart,

For they are a part

of nothing,

having become

everything.

 

Standing among the ruins,

 

they mourn their dreams,

and in the gathering light of dawn,

they dissipate once more

 

And the whispered susurration

of fervid entreaty once more

forms the misty morning veil

around the broken walls

where prayers go to

die.

 

The Orb of Life

Look! my friend.

See! and weep no more

I have them here,

preserved by

your perserverance

 

Inside, they mill in

tranquil expectation that

you will see them all,

and claim them for your own.

 

Behold!

 

Your dreams

Your longings

Your desires

Your loves

 

They are here within

The orb of your life

 

But you must reach in

through

 

Your doubts

Your fears

Your rejections

Your hatreds

 

And be able to tell

the difference

for they are double-sided

but they are

 

all yours.

 

Death’s Handmaiden

Let bone fingers,

gentler than colder scythe,

close my eyes

in

eternal sleep

 

I would seek

Death’s Handmaiden,

dressed in mourning finery,

And plead a softer touch,

no less final for

all its gentleness

 

For all her smiling

reassuringly in

my final moment,

I would hear

at least

the faint echo of a

woman’s heart

where

none exists

 

I would kneel

in abject

Obeisance

to her

gory majesty

 

And take her hand

in gratitude

for mercy,

though I bleed

 

No sunset,

just darkness

without stars

 

I go

and wait for

you

in the drafty caverns,

the void

of her many- shadowed palace,

in a vast and ebon realm,

disguised as

a humble cottage

in the midst

of

woods and meadow.

 

And Yes, I Still Believe in Love

Beyond Panic

And yes, I still believe in love
I still believe it’s there
It’s trembling out there somewhere in
the frosty winter air

Or trapped inside a mountain cave
from which it can’t escape
because it fell while running out
and gave its knee a scrape

Or floating on the raging sea
and looking for a light
to guide it safely home to shore
before it’s out of sight

Perhaps it’s on a city street
outside at a café
You didn’t hear it call your name
and hurried on your way

Perhap it’s somewhere crying
it cannot find a heart
that seems to want to keep it
not tell it to depart

So when we say we ‘look for love’
that happens to be true
I still believe it’s out there and
it’s looking for us too.

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Leiko and the White Wolf (2)

2)

 

In time, her captor’s robe did its job, and Ko was settled into it, wrapping it up around her shoulders, and over her head. The weight of the wide, waterlogged hat had grown heavy, and it now sat on the bench beside her.

She saw the small crew sneaking glances at her, though what they could see with her hidden inside the robe, and with the thickening fog, she didn’t know.

They seemed content to do no more than that, since, as her mysterious captor told her, the journey was not long.

He’d abandoned his post at the stern, and now stood in the bow; those mysteriously bright eyes were probably piercing through the fog to watch for the shore line.

Ko, feeling more relaxed, more due to inactivity and the receding of the adrenaline from her father’s betrayal than being comfortable, decided to stretch her legs, and join him, and perhaps get some answers to some of the questions she now had.

When she stood beside him, he acknowledged with a brief look, and turned his attention back to the unnaturally smooth river.

“What do I call you?”

“I go by many names.”

“I just need one.”

He smiled at her sarcastic quickness.

“Akira.”

“Akira…I like it.”

“I am pleased.”

“How much longer, Akira?”

“I can see the coastline now.”

“Through the fog?”

“Yes.”

“How?
He turned to her. “Are these the questions on your list?”

She shook her head.
“Then I am under no obligation to answer them.”

“That’s rude.”

“Yes, it is.”

She looked up to see if he was joking, and thought she saw him just barely hide the trace of a smile.

“Hold your questions, Ko, until we are both warm and fed, and you have settled into your quarters. I will reveal things to you as you need to know them, and not before.

“Do we have an understanding?”

Considering there was nothing she could do to force anything, she nodded.

“Say it.”

“Yes, Akira. We have an understanding.”

“I am pleased.”

“Land!” the front oarsman called. The word reverberated, but the fog muffled it; it sounded strange to Ko, as if a ghost had shouted.

Akira offered them no guidance, and Ko, who couldn’t see anything, felt a little flutter of worry, but with the familiarity of long years, the oarsmen guided the boat into the city harbor with alacrity.

Ko took her hat, and shook off the loose water that remained; it was no longer raining, but it was still too damp for the hat to dry.

Akira placed a small sack into the front oarsman’s hand, and Ko could hear the clink of coin inside it.

He nodded once to the oarsman, who bowed from the waist, and shooed his crew off the boat to disappear into the fog.

He reached for Ko’s hand, and she took it; his hand was warm, and her own felt like a nestling in it, somehow safe and warm, and the weariness of recent events began to tire her now; she didn’t want to relax, wanted to stay on her guard, but Akira was making it difficult.

“And what do I call this land, or does it too, go by many names?”

“Only one: Dosojin.”

“Dosojin…the god of roads.”

“You don’t like it?”

“I’m not sure.”

“It is named such because there are many paths.”

“Paths to what?”

“To your destination.”

“Where is that?”

“That is for you to find, Ko. I am only a guide, but you must tell me where you want to stop.”

She shook her head, her voice edgy now, frustrated with the seemingly constant evasion.

“I don’t understand, Akira.”

“I don’t expect you to; you are trying to force what should come naturally. Look, I know that what happened to you was traumatic, and you feel more like a plucked weed than anything else, useless, therefore without value, but I also understand the weather is inclement, and the circumstances surrounding your selection cannot be easily explained in the span of a ferry ride.

“There is much for you to learn, and much more to think about, and I have told you no harm will befall you.

“And as much as that frightens you, you must take me at my word, until time proves it true.”

As they walked, she fell silent, and looked around her.

The city, town, village, whatever it was they were walking through, wouldn’t give up its secrets.

The streets were empty, and the shops dimly lit.

The fog seemed to have an oppressive quality, almost as if its ethereal weight had strength and substance.

She had no impression of color, or structure, or design; the fog sat like a cosmic toad over everything, and Ko soon gave it up as a lost cause.

Akira, for his part, seemed lost in his own thoughts the closer they came to where she was supposed to be.

So, father, you have sold me to Dosojin…the god of roads…of many paths.

But I see only one way out.

 

 

 

Overmorrow (6)

6)

I waited just outside the Summoner’s door as once again the yellow, green and blue eyes of the night creatures flecked the darkness as they came to watch me and wait for the ideal opportunity.

In time, as they eyes crept closer and closer, Jirus appeared at the top of the rise; his eyes were still that pale blue.

“Mitre Harkin.”

At his greeting, the eyes began to recede into the trees.

I walked up the rise and he took my hand.

“Vilus is back at the camp, and the meat is cooking. Did you do what you needed?”

“I did.” I stopped, and since he held my hand, he stopped with me.

“I may need your help later. I’m afraid that the Dark Wood won’t be spared this time.”

He nodded.  “I didn’t think it would be; with the departure of so many, there are holes in its protection, and what magic remains has faded, or weakened, to the point where we’ve been vulnerable for some time.”

We began walking again.

“We’ve been relying on reputation to keep out intruders for some time. The truth is, Mitre, you wouldn’t have been able to get as far as you did if everything was still intact.

“The original barrier prevented travel through the last of the hill country, and you were very lucky to survive.”

That was a sobering thought, but I let it pass.

“So no, we won’t be spared, and we’ll help in any way we can.”

This time, he stopped, and looked up at me with a rather fierce expression.

“But I’ll not put Vilus in harm’s way for you.”

I was taken aback, and said so. “I would never ask you to do that.”

We started walking again.  “War makes men do all sorts of things they’d never do.”

I had no answer for that either.

We arrived at the camp, and Vilus ran up to me and hugged me.

“Were you able to help her, Mitre?”

The most expedient thing to do in the moment was lie, one of the first things I vowed never to do when I donned the temple’s robes. Already what Jirus told me was proving true.

“Yes Vilus, I was.”

She smiled.

“The food’s ready,” Jirus called.

As we ate, they regaled me with some of their more dangerous hunting stories, and while they weren’t exactly feral children, if their exploits were true, they were relentless in their pursuit, and brutal in their killing.

They said nothing of their family, or how they came to be alone, much less survive, in the woods all these years, and nothing of how they gained their hunting prowess, and why the animals feared them so.

Something told me that if I asked, I would lose them, so I didn’t.

That’s a tale for another day.

It was what my father often said to us when we’d ask him for another bedtime story because we didn’t want him to go, and we didn’t want to go to sleep. Sometimes he’d indulge us, but when he didn’t, that’s what he’d say.

I felt it applied here.

Soon time and quiet exacted their price, and the light in the children’s eyes was flickering as their lids closed as they too, fought sleep; but as the fire died, their stories trailed off into light snores

Knowing I was safe as long as I stayed close, I watched the unfed fire dance across the embers, and darken, and took what rest I could in the remainder of the night.

 

*****************

In the morning, Vilus woke me.

“Mitre Harkin, it’s time to go.”

I woke up, rubbing my eyes, my face, as I looked about to see Jirus not in the camp.

“Where’s your brother?”

“He got your horse.”

“He found it alive?”

She smiled. “Yes, and it’s already saddled for you.”

She took my hand.

“It’s not dark, Vilus.”

“I know.”

She gave my hand a little squeeze.

Friends again.

 

******************

Jirus held the reins as I mounted, and I gave the bag with the rest of the gold.

“That’s very generous, Mitre.”

“You’ve more than earned it. I only hope you find it of some use before the demons come, before their masters gain more power.”

“I wish we met under better circumstances.”

“Well, we have a chance to make them better before we meet again.”

“I’d like that.”

“Me too,” Vilus said. She handed me my crossbow.

“Thank you. Both of you.”

“Until we meet again, right, Mitre Harkin?”

“That’s right, dear Vilus. That’s exactly right.”

I turned the horse, who took off at a gallop, eager to be back on familiar ground.

I didn’t bother turning around this time, because I didn’t want to see the empty space.

The sun was rising.

Overmorrow had now become today.

 

 

 

Inner Cage

Inner cage  Outer rage

Kill the people Turn the page

Bleeding in an alleyway

Watching darkness hunt the day

 

We’re the only monsters here

Gods of violence, blood and fear

Rule blue heaven overhead

Die not with me when I’m dead

 

I am dead to faith and hope

Love is but a hanging rope

I’ll not dangle; Best beware

I will roast your heart so fair

 

Toss you like a broken knife

Dare you still to be my wife

 

Break inside the inner cage

Sail the sea of outward rage

Take me safely back to land

with your roughened, gentle hand

 

When your love has calmed the beast

Claim his heart your wedding feast

Ever fast and ever true

In the inner cage

with

you

 

 

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.  2015