A snake coiled within your lawn,
with or without my hinged head on.
A snake coiled within your lawn,
A snake coiled within your lawn,
with or without my hinged head on.
Jesse James liked to dance with the Devil
many a time for many a revel,
and folks thought him a hero who earned praise
as he danced with the Devil and Hell’s blaze.
Jesse took pride in his wild cowboy dance,
but could not see the flames snagging his pants
till it was too late, and no Bible quote
could snuff the flame rising up his long coat.
Still, folks fanned their hearth with tales of his crimes,
casting his shadow wide in bygone times,
but as a candle burning on each end
he lived fast, died fast, now smoke on the wind
that blackens the air for a moment more
before fading into Southern folklore.
A young Australian girl reclines,
her legs dangling from the dock,
tacklebox, fishing poles, lines;
blind to the saltwater croc.
Her Sunday dress is pure white
like flowers before the Fall,
her hair modest and braids tight;
no ribbons or bows at all.
The girl hums a hymnal song,
lines drifting—not a quiver
to hint that something is wrong
within the silent river.
She hums a song about love
and the paradise that waits
after death, in realms “above”
such as the old Bible states.
She remembers her preacher
and a sermon last season
that was premised to teach her
“Things happen for a reason.”
He said, “Egypt’s children died
as proof of God’s great power.
Pharaoh Ramses could not hide
his child from that fateful hour.”
When she asked him how she might
avoid incurring God’s wrath,
he said, “Keep yourself pure white,
and stay on the righteous path.”
The croc springs up from beneath
like a devil from below;
she struggles, but the sharp teeth
clutch tight and do not let go.
She screams out to her father,
her mother, Jesus, her god,
but the sound drowns in water,
crying, helpless as she pawed
at the beast’s face, its wide snout,
slowing as she drowned slowly,
as she bled and faded out,
the death-roll now more holy
than any psalm or prayer
she could say in her defense
within Nature’s cruel lair—
no rhyme or reason or sense.
The Green Knight Review
“Where I see a story can be improved, I improve it.”
While the above is a paraphrase of the original dialogue, I could not be bothered to return to this pretentious movie to provide the exact quote. The intention of the writer/director, David Lowery, is encapsulated by the paraphrase, regardless, and I see no reason why the gist of his thesis for this movie cannot be represented best by the paraphrase provided. After all, the arrogance with which I assign the quote is no more overlarge than Lowery’s in his reimagining of Sir Gawain as a cowardly, perfidious, hot-headed, and prideful knight. At least my paraphrase is not slanderous, unlike Lowery’s paraphrase of the original epic poem (meaning that this film is not a paraphrase at all, but mean-spirited slander). And, truly, Lowery’s film is a slander of the original “Maiden’s Knight” himself, for it is a subversion of expectations that subverts itself through a strawman fallacy. Gawain, as depicted in Lowery’s vision, is not compassionate, nor chivalrous, nor brave, and, therefore, earns no such sympathies likewise from the audience. Rather, he is altogether irredeemable, being a much-maligned embodiment of “toxic masculinity”. Therefore, there is not much to be learned from Gawain himself, being that he is a hollow dummy upon which Lowery can make passes with a lance lowered lazily against him. It is a one-sided jousting tournament. This is not the Gawain of the original story, nor of the “The Greene Knight” poem, nor of the other famous Gawain story involving the Dame Ragnelle where he gifts the greatest gift of women to his loathly wife (sovereignty). This Gawain is a soulless caricature, and not much else. He feels the need to “be a honorable knight”, but his primary character traits are antithetical to the “honorable knight” he aspires to be (known as). He would rather have the reputation, superficially, than put in the effort for reform and self-improvement (primarily because he has no “self” to improve).
The female characters, on the other hand— while also being empty-souled exercises in moral concepts akin to Gawain—are by and large high-handed remonstrations against “toxic masculinity”. They have little in the way of personality or character. The Lady Bertilak, for instance, is the character through which Lowery speaks the abovementioned paraphrase. She is the aristocratic version of Gawain’s favorite prostitute, Essel. She is learned and skilled in calligraphy and water/light magical photography. She is an agent of Gawain’s mother, and of the director, serving their dual purposes simultaneously. She does nothing throughout the film but tempt Gawain to his baser nature and then reprimand him, all the while providing recursive meta-textualization of the story itself and voicing the director’s self-involved views on the story. It is disingenuous at best, and bad storytelling besides. This modern/post-modern fascination with metanarratives has yet to be proven worthwhile, especially when such fixations distract from the primary goal of a storyteller: telling a cohesive, coherent story with fully-rounded characters. Truly, symbolisms and themes and “deeper meanings” will emerge on their own, naturally, if the writer/author/director/whatever focuses on telling a good story. When a storyteller is more concerned with a “message” the story suffers more often than not, regardless of whether the “message” is needful or apt to the time period. Lady Bertilak is a casualty of Lowery’s predilection to preach, becoming a captious, bipolar cardboard-cutout by the close of the second act.
Contrasting with Lady Bertilak, in both station and disposition, is the prostitute Essel. Essel loves Gawain. This much we know about her. It is her defining attribute: her love for Gawain and her frustration with his reluctance to marry her. She asks only that she have his ear, his hand, his heart, and be his wife. But she is lowborn and, as stated, a prostitute atop that. This is a fantasy movie, of course, but it is also one that purports to deal with human themes and modern problems of “toxic masculinity”. What the movie fails to address (even as it is premised to address it) is Gawain’s duties as not only a knight, but as royalty. What of his obligations to the kingdom? As the nephew of a childless king he must consider his marriage carefully, for with it come alliances that may make or break not only Camelot, but the lives of his people. In the vision Gawain sees toward the end of the film a war occurs. We are not provided reasons for this war, but it certainly cannot be because he chose to marry a noble lady and NOT a prostitute. Yet, this is what may be easily implied by the sequence of events. The director provides no direct reason for this subsequent war, nor the ensuing dissolution of Camelot, but that is likely because he could not think of one that would justify Gawain’s marriage to Essel rather than to a noble lady of a foreign court. Is it because Gawain had not matured enough from his quest to make better decisions? Is it because he had a bastard son that raised arms against him for the right to the throne, much as Mordred is known to do in the superior movie “Excalibur”? Best not to ponder it too much because Lowery certainly didn’t. And that is the primary problem with this film: it pretends to be deep, but swims in the kiddie pool of spectacle and, admittedly, beautiful cinematography.
Another character (loosely speaking) is Saint Winifred. She appears near the halfway point after Gawain has been laughably disarmed, hogtied, and humiliated by a trio of adolescent urchins. Her character within the story seems to exist solely to state that men can do bad things to women, such as beheading them when they refuse to lie with them. This seems needless, to be frank, in the context of this film. Thus far, while Gawain shows cowardice and arrogance and other dishonorable traits, he never demonstrates violence toward women (or children, since, again, he has been easily disarmed), so the inclusion of this segment as part of his lesson is baffling. Does Gawain’s mother suspect that her son would harm women if given the chance? Or does Winifred exist so the jarring exchange may take place? It is a strange little interrupting interlude, especially when he tries to touch her face to test if she is real and she reproaches him for presuming he may touch her. He clearly suspects that she is a spirit, and is proven correct afterward, but it passes as another strike against Gawain’s morality. Moments later she requests that he retrieve her head from the pond. He asks what she will give him in exchange and she reproaches him again. While this scene is supposed to be a comment on “male entitlement” it is jarring and does not fit with the rest of the movie, particularly Winifred’s modernized tone and wording. It exists solely so the director may preach (to the choir) about how wicked it is for a man to think he should “get something from a woman in return for a favor”. But the truth is that Gawain is risking his life to retrieve Winifred’s head and put her to rest. He could simply walk away, and would have been wise to do so, especially since she was so skittish as to flinch from his innocent attempt to ascertain if she was real or not. Overall, this scene is completely disjointed from the narrative and serves no purpose except as an indulgence for the director. After all, Gawain was seeking shelter and Winifred surprised him after he had explored the house and found it isolated and abandoned, laying down to sleep. Lowery seems to want the narrative to go out of its own way (and pacing) to provide reasons to dislike Gawain.
Speaking of narrative, the whole narrative is set into motion by Gawain’s mother. In the original mythology Gawain’s mother is Morgause, so I will condescend to dub her Morgause for the sake of this review, even if she is treated within the film as if she is Morgan Le Fay. Morgause wants to test her son. She wants him to mature to be a man, but not just any man: an honorable man. What is an honorable man? It is difficult to discern within this film, mainly because the film is dead-set against Gawain ever becoming an honorable man. If anything, the film wishes to prevent him from being an honorable man as if to subvert the character arc with which it is misleading the audience (literally heading the Hero’s Journey off at a stroke). Morgause sends the Green Knight to challenge King Arthur’s court (while she is absent from her own throne at the right hand of King Arthur) and her hot-headed son steps forward to prove himself to his uncle and to defend the honor of the court (speciously). Morgause uses her son’s pride to ensnare him into a “game”, as King Arthur deems it, to prioritize his life to more selfless service (I suppose). The problem with this premise, however, is that it shows that the “toxic masculinity” of Gawain has been allowed to flourish erstwhile. Why has he degenerated so pathetically? Where was his mother during this time of ongoing moral decay? What happened to parental responsibility? Why did she wait so long to assert herself over her son? Is it because Camelot is a “patriarchy”? How so? There are three thrones in front of the Round Table, two of which are habitually occupied by women. Indeed, Arthur’s wife (Guenivere, presumably) takes the Green Knight’s scroll from Arthur’s hand and reads it herself rather than allowing Arthur to read it. Her voice is then subsumed by the Green Knight’s, whose voice, in turn, is controlled by Morgause. Morgause wrote the letter herself, and she and her fellow Fae/witches conjured the Green Knight, or, at least, they control him. The power of the women in Camelot, in the wild, and in Bertilak’s castle is quite prominent. The giants, for instance, all seem to be female. Gawain asks to ride upon a giantess’s shoulders, but the fox forbids him from doing so. Elsewhere, the men are devoid of agency. King Arthur is enfeebled, his own body being “unwilling” to meet the Green Knight’s challenge. Lord Bertilak is rendered utterly harmless in the movie, whereas in the original story he is imposing. In the film Lord Bertilak poses little threat, whereas Lady Bertilak and her “blind” waiting woman are seemingly omniscient, watching Gawain while he sleeps, appearing unprompted and unseen in the background, and even overpowering him sexually (as Lady Bertilak does when she grips him with her hand while offering him the green sash). The aristocratic women in the film are quite powerful. The lowborn women (such as Essel and Winifred) have no power and can only make requests for either Gawain’s love or service. Is there a message in this dynamic? If so, it is muddled. Not all women can be aristocratic to escape victimization, and yet those women that are aristocratic are as manipulative as the aristocratic men. What is the answer? I doubt there is even a question, to be honest. Lowery just likes to blow smoke and pretend it is genie powder, even as you are choking on the intake.
And what about the ending? It is as inconsistent as the rest of the film, both in terms of narrative and themes. My fiancee and I both concluded that Sir Gawain did not bow his head to the Green Knight and doff his enchanted sash because he had matured to the point of being willing to lay his life down for honor, nor had he reconciled his pride with Nature and the erasure it brings to mankind. No, Gawain simply did not want to live such a life as was shown to him in the vision. His cowardice and his pride, thus, spurred him to accept his premature death rather than attempt any modicum of growth. Of course, the conclusion of the film is open-ended and welcomes interpretation, but Lowery has demonized the “Maiden’s Knight” so much by the culmination of the film that Gawain is irredeemable to the last. He is a strawman of lust and privilege and cowardice. Why else would the fox—who is likely his mother in disguise, though they do not list the voice actress anywhere—attempt to dissuade Gawain from meeting the Green Knight? She was attempting to humble him, but by the end he realized what she could not realize: he could not change. Hence why he says “It wouldn’t matter if it was a single year or a hundred years”. He was not only talking about his cowardice, but his core identity, which was chaff to the very end. He knew he could not change, and so he would rather die than face a future of disgrace. The question, then, becomes: what is the point? There isn’t one. It is just the shallow spectacle of wild gesticulation pretending to be Art. It is a straw knight: posed upright and plated in gleaming armor, but hollow, ultimately spun about like a weathervane by the cultural winds. It is the rustling of chaff and only fools would believe it has anything important to say.
Recently purchased an XP Pen tablet. It has been a long time since I have drawn on the computer. I still prefer pen and ink and watercolor, but sometimes you have to adapt to the times. I need a lot of practice. Painting on a tablet is still weird to me and a little bit off-putting.
Little Boy Blew
“Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn.
Where is that boy who looks after the sheep?
He’s under a haystack, fast asleep.
Will you wake him? Oh no, not I,
For if I do, he’ll surely cry.”
The sunrise was apocalyptic, setting the meadow aflame with blinding white light scintillating across early morning dew. Tom stood in the light, stunned, leaning on his pitchfork. A big man—and not at all Slim Pickings—he was as a scarecrow made of brick; more stone than stonemason. Even so, he stared at the sunrise with a look akin to haunted sorrow. When the flames of the morning did not reach past the distant trees, however, he loosened his taut muscles and continued pitching the hay into the nearby wagon. The pale horse in front of the wagon whinnied impatiently.
“I am hurrying as fast I can,” Tom said to the horse, grunting as he stooped and pitched the hay.
The cool morning mists scattered at the sun, like ghosts. The air grew hotter. The dew of the morning vanished while the dew on Tom’s brow gathered wetly. He did not wipe it away until he had piled the wagon high and could fit no more within its bed. Then he wiped his brow with his flannel sleeve and took hold of the horse’s reins.
“Go on, Old Henry,” Tom said, giving the reins a little whip.
Old Henry was, in fact, not “Old”, but young, and so impatient for work. He pulled at once, and nearly accelerated to a trot, but Tom gave the reins a little tug to curtail the horse’s impatience. The horse knew where to go, and so went to the barn directly, navigating the grazing cattle with little guidance or prompting. He came to a stop by the gabled barn, snorting contemptibly. Tom hopped off the wagon. Old Henry gave another impatient snort for emphasis.
“Fine, fine,” Tom said, untying the horse from the wagon. “Go on, then.”
The horse bolted, running across the vast meadow. At full-gallop it approached the fenceline—as if it would bound over it—but turned at the last moment and ran the length of the perimeter as if keen on winning the Kentucky Derby. While Old Henry ran his laps, Tom unloaded the wagon. By the time he had finished, his wife called him to breakfast. He rested the pitchfork against the wagon and turned toward the old farmhouse. As he turned he caught sight of something standing in the meadow, where the cows grazed. In his periphery it looked tall and wide of stance. He turned to look at it directly, but whatever it was, it was gone.
The kitchen was bright as the sun glared through the window. The tiles across the floor gleamed, recently mopped, and the chicken wallpaper was paneled with few shadows from the cabinets.
“Why don’t you get a tractor, pa?” his son asked. The little boy sat across from his father at the round table, looking expectantly at his father.
“I can make do without one,” Tom said. He grimaced as a gashing pain shot across the bend of his back, near the juncture of his shoulderblades and the tendons of the spine. He buried the awareness of this pain deep in the crowded bunker of his mind.
His wife, Lucille, sighed, but said nothing. She served them plates heaped with eggs, bacon, and pancakes. His son ate the pancakes with energy—more energy than he ever had for his chores—and Tom watched him pensively for a long moment. Tom then began to eat. He ate the pancakes and the eggs with an engineer’s exacting efficiency, but he did not touch the bacon. The bacon made him feel sick to his stomach.
“Lucy,” he said, “I thought I told you not to give me any bacon.”
His wife sat down at the table with her own plate.
“It’s good for you, Tom,” she said. “You need something to keep your strength up. You’ll work yourself to an early grave if you don’t eat more.”
Tom, who was broad of shoulders and barrel-chested, shook his head.
“I drink plenty of milk,” he said. “That is enough. Here, Little Tom, have at it.”
He slid the plate across the table to his son. Little Tom reached his small hand out and took hold of the bacon, piling it onto his plate with greasy fingers.
“Thanks, pa,” Little Tom said.
Tom stood up, silently, and went to the door.
“Tom,” Lucille said, turning in her chair to watch him go.
He paused at the door that led out of the kitchen.
“Don’t work yourself out there too much,” she said. “The heat’s not good for you.”
“I know heat’s not good for you,” Tom said. “Believe me. I know better than most.”
He went out the door.
Tom went to the garden to hoe the weeds. Occasionally he stole a glance at the cows, and Old Henry, and the farmhouse. Little Tom joined him, using a small hoe to stab at the black soil and uproot the weeds. Little Tom wore his own denim overalls and a blue shirt. On his head he wore a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap.
They were a long way from Brooklyn, but not far enough from Manhattan.
“When do you go back to school?” Tom asked his son.
The little boy looked gloomy in the shade of his hat. The midmorning sunshine chiseled the shadow hard along his round face. “Another month, I think?”
“You been keeping up your studies?” Tom asked him.
The little boy gave a glum, half-hearted shrug. He dug at the soil aimlessly; absentmindedly. He said nothing.
“We got those books for you so you could study,” Tom said. “You’re goin’ to need to study to get better in school so you can go to college someday.”
The boy sulked in silence for a while. He uprooted a weed and threw it out of the garden.
“Why can’t I join the Army?” he said, mousily. “Like you did?”
Tom’s face darkened. “I’ve told you already,” he said, his tone stony. “You’re not going into the Army. Or the Navy. Or nothing to do with war.”
“But you were a hero…”
“It ain’t like the movies!” his father snapped. “That propaganda swill! It’s all hogwash.”
Tom took a deep breath and sighed. They continuing hoeing the garden, but in silence.
The days of Summer were long. Tom aimed to make the most of them. After he and Little Tom had hoed the garden, he tied Old Henry to an old, rusty combine. It was small, but it served his purpose in the fields of wheat and rye and oats. Old Henry had more than enough gumption and endurance to make the combine efficient, and even had strength remaining afterward to pull the hay-rake. Eventually, however, Tom knew he would need to purchase another horse to ease Old Henry’s burdens. He might even have to purchase a herd of horses.
But he would not purchase a tractor.
The day grew hotter as the sun reached its zenith. The shade drew inward, shrinking in retreat. The cattle sought shelter under a copse of trees near the bullfrog-gibbering pond. Old Henry, too, sought what remained of the shade, returning to the gables. Tom sat in a rocking-chair on the porch while Lucille—sitting on the steps—mended a pair of his denim overalls. Little Tom lay on his stomach, glumly reading aloud from a book of collected works by Shakespeare.
“…and for one blast of thy minikin mouth, thy sheepe shall take no harme…”
Little Tom frowned down at the open book like it was a frog that had just spoken to him in French. He turned his head this way and that, like a box of crackerjacks from which he was trying to retrieve the sticker. Finally, he looked up at his father.
“Pa, what does that mean?”
Tom, who had been erstwhile staring out at something in the meadow, turned and looked at his son with some confusion.
“What does ‘minikin’ mean? What does any of it mean?”
“Minikin?” Tom said, considering. “I think it means ‘small’. Like ‘munchkins’ in the Wizard of Oz. They’re small people.”
“Oh,” Little Tom said. He looked down at the book again, puzzling over the phrase. After a long beat, he gave up, and began to read again, mechanically speaking without emphasis or comprehension.
Lucille stood up from the steps and went to Tom, laying the overalls in her husband’s lap.
“Finished,” she said.
“Thank you, darling,” Tom said. His eyes remained in the meadow, but also seemed much farther away than that. He had ceased rocking his rocking-chair.
“We need more salt,” Lucille said, standing next to her husband. “And more flour.”
“We’ll have flour soon enough,” Tom said. “When I get the mill working again.”
“We’ll need flour sooner than that,” Lucille said. Her tone was one of threadbare patience. “And the salt. We need salt.”
“I’ll take Old Henry into town tomorrow,” Tom said. “If I leave early in the morning I should be back by the evening.”
“If we had a truck…” his wife began to say.
There was creaking sound that silenced her, but it was not the sound of the rocking-chair on the porch. It was coming from Tom.
“I don’t want to argue about this, Lucy,” he said quietly. “You know how I feel about it.”
“Yes, I know,” she said. “But it would make things easier for us. Easier for all of us. We could even go into town for church on Sundays like a normal family.”
Tom chuckled mirthlessly. “You can pray here as well as pray there,” he said. “God ain’t gonna’ hear you, anyhow. He is deaf. We deafened him with that bang, Lucy.” He laughed a dry, cynic’s laugh. “He’s always been hard of hearing, come to think of it.”
“Tom,” she said, tremulously. “Tom, we all could use with some more society. You could go to Grenwich and see your friends. Talk to them. Maybe you’d feel better. And Little Tom needs to be around other children.”
“He’ll be around other children when he goes back to school,” Tom said.
“But he has to stay with his aunt, then,” she said. “And God knows my sister is good to him, but it makes this place awfully lonesome when he’s gone. Because you’re gone most of the time, Tom. You go off in your little world and you don’t even seem to be home when you are home…”
“Lucy…” Tom said.
“It’s not like I don’t know how you feel, Tom,” she continued, speaking over him. “But wallowing in it is not healthy for you. You got to see things the way they are. It was a necessary evil. If you like, a truck is a necessary evil, too. You don’t even have to drive it. I could drive it. I drove the girls around during the war. I could drive Little Tom to school every day. We have more than enough money. Daddy saw to that…”
“Lucy…” Tom said.
“And it’s not even the same, Tom. It’s just a gasoline engine. People use them all the time. It won’t explode or catch fire…”
Tom stood up suddenly, his eyes affixed somewhere far away. He stepped off the porch, walking intently toward the meadow. He did not stop at the blazing heat or the glare of the sun. He did not stop at the buzzing deerflies that swirled around him like hateful memories. He did not stop at the echo of his wife’s voice. He walked directly to the gate in the center of the meadow, halting only as its shadow fell upon his boots.
It was not a normal gate. Firstly, it had no fence upon which it hinged to open and close, nor did it have a latch. In appearance and function it was not a Western-style gate for cattle. It was a post-and-lintel construct with two rounded columns of wood and a curved lintel in the traditional Japanese style. It was what Tom knew to be called a “torii gate”. It was blackened and scorched, the wood seemingly ready to collapse unto ash at any moment. The gate appeared as if it had been struck by lightning and set ablaze. As he entered the gate and left the meadow behind he could hear the air raid siren. He heard people distantly. He heard wails of grief and screams of agony. He heard a distant hum, like that of thunder protracted unto a single deafening note. He was no longer on his farm. He walked desolate streets where wooden buildings had been scattered, their frames and walls smoldering like twigs from a dead bonfire. The sidewalks were littered with debris and soot. The air tingled and the sky was bright where the clouds had been blown away. In the distance a blinding light was only now fading, like sunset, and a cloudy figure danced on the horizon. It was a pillar of clouds, but it was also a dancing boy blowing his horn. Tom knew the name of that dancing boy. He dared not speak it.
There were no other people on the decimated streets. There were only shadows burned into walls that aped in deathly stillness the silhouettes of men and women and children. Tom averted his eyes, yet he saw them elsewhere also: along crumbling facades, on the posts of a temple, skewed on the sidewalk itself. Their ashes entered his lungs, making him cough. Tears came to his eyes, beckoned by the cindery air.
The people were gone, yet they were everywhere.
Tom turned away, staggering toward the torii gate. He could see the meadow between the charred posts. Both sides of the torii gate were bright, yet only one was bright with a natural light. He walked through the gate for the countless time. He had been through it so many times now and yet it hurt nonetheless.
Tom left the torii gate and stood once again in his meadow. The gate was gone and the sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky. His wife stood on the porch of the small farmhouse. Ahead of her, running across the field, came Little Tom. He smiled as he ran, pointing up at the sky. A plane flew overhead, its engine whirring noisily. The minikin boy slowed, his smile drooping into a gawping frown. Tom heard a horn blast in the air. In horror he watched as his son began to melt before his eyes, his skin peeling and blackening like the skin of a rotten onion. Smoke spewed from his body and soon his eyes burst into flame, burning hollow to empty eye sockets that stared darkly into the realm of Death. He crumbled to a heap of bones upon the meadow. Tom fell to his knees and wept.
When his son reached him, he hugged his father with arms browned by the sun, but otherwise unblemished.
“It’s okay, pa,” his son said. “The war’s over. We won.”
“Not all of us,” his father said, hugging his son. “Not all of us…”
It all hinges on where you tread,
because though these teeth are on the chain
they snap closed on what they are fed,
jaws springing to life without a brain.
In a stony silence he sits
afore the carven Gates Of Hell,
unmoving, heedless, his bronze wits
pondering what no man may tell.
Once a poet in wordless thought,
facing the Inferno’s fury,
but now a figure which thinks nought
after more than a century.
There are too many peoples
willing to set fast fires
to their homes, to their steeples,
just so the needless pyres
will bloom with cinder and smoke
in a nearby window;
just so their neighbors will choke
when contrary winds blow;
too many peoples of spite
on both sides of the aisle
would rather argue and fight
than do what is worthwhile;
arsonists cannot abide
the act of compromise,
that holy pact where each side
gives and takes so both rise
above the fires of the past,
building anew in truth
so the neighborhoods may last
in peace, our hearts fireproof;
hatred is when a heart burns
beyond its picket fence,
beyond its kindling concerns,
beyond all commonsense.
She held all her grudges tight
in her heart, like a clam in brine,
till they hardened to pearls, cold and white,
which she kept to polish—refine;
but she sometimes cast pearls out,
expecting the “swine” to scatter,
and when they did not, she swore about
how her grudges did not matter.