The Youthful Dead, And Useless Old Men

O, I hear the bean sidhe—she is shrieking
in schoolyard and school hall, the fell, bleak thing
sounding an alarm for the many deaths
when goodly youths shall draw their final breaths
while old men diddle and dither, at odds
with one another, and their bloodfed gods.
The gruesome Redcaps dip their dripping hats
into crimson puddles like vineyard vats
and a murder of crows descends anon
from the shoulders of grim-lipped Morrigan
and all youth is squandered in misty vale,
blooming anew with rot and maggots pale
till the ancient echoes of pagan song
be sated in surfeit of age-old wrong,
the wrong of wrongs such were long forgotten
when clans clashed fiercely, each chief besotten
with the blood-debts accrued in times before,
that fateful geas that binds forevermore.
Do nought for the dead but ponder and pray
and be grateful that the capricious Fae
demand no more than the youths hereby piled
for their burrows and mounds and woodlands wild,
for the Land of Youth needs our youth to bleed
ere Tir na nOg be a place old men heed
when nodding at their thrones as if glamored
and impotent, their weak hearts enamored
of the Cailleach, that old baleful elf
who enchants to think only of the self
as the long winter of old age reigns on
in those resentful of youth, their youth gone.
O, our country is as the headless wraith, the Dullahan, that runs forth with a faith
steeped in blood, cracking a whip made of spine
as if backbone is enough to consign
the peace hungered for in our times of grief,
times when blood-stained blade oft slips from the sheath…
but we’ve lost our heads, and the youth their lives,
as old men nod, ignoring Elphame tithes.

Fairy Fare

Bitcoin is alike to the gold
which Fairies gave in times of old,
a gleaming glam of coinage that
seems a lot, but is dandiprat.
It seems oh so like a godsend,
that crypto pot at rainbow’s end,
but when you take it to the bank
you find you lack all real-world rank
except, perhaps, as Lord of Fools
when coins and crowns and all jewels
recede to leaves and moss and stones
to weigh you down, and the Dow Jones.

Poetry Theory

I set up the scaffolding for the day
and it is sturdy, though a rambling mess,
and while others find fault, I must confess
that it matters not to me, anyway—
I will take it down once my house is up
and cast its skeleton into a shed
such as I would bury bones of the dead
before returning to my house to sup.

The Brass Squire, The Birch Witch

Aegis, the shield-hand, ventured on a quest
alongside his compeers, the Gran Stone squires,
each besotten with dreams to thus attest
the worth of their training, their hearts—the liars.

Twere young men spurred by the heat of their lungs
to ride Northeast and challenge the Black Knight,
all the while flapping their overproud tongues
and profiting on all peasants in sight.

But Aegis, the chaste, aspired to be more
than the snide squires with which he rode Northward,
sworn to the heroic tenets of yore,
of shield and sacrifice; not only sword.

So when an old hag pleaded for their aid
and his brethren mocked her bark-skinned face
and then left her in the woods, Aegis stayed;
the Brass Squire would deign to witness her case.

“The demoness stole my youth,” she complained,
“That demoness Vanus, her artful wiles
being vanity to all, her heart paned
with the glass to tempt all to their own guiles.”

Aegis knew the crone was a wily liar,
yet she seemed pitiful beneath her hood,
aggrieved as elders are ere they expire,
so he agreed to do as a man should.

He braved the birch woods and their mysteries,
seeking the glade-laid heart of the forest
while the Birch Witch recalled the histories
that the trees whispered far from the Nor’west.

“When in times when old was young, and death cried
as a newborn dropped from the cosmic cleft,
the World-Unfurled was neither far nor wide,
but was as a small peaceful patch of weft.

And no beast was a hunter, nor beast prey,
and the day stretched on with sunlight profound
nor darkened at the closing of the day,
but all was pure innocent, round and round.

For there were no beasts nor hearts nor desires
as the Weft lay smooth in its little square,
but soon life arose, from which there transpires
the wolf and the sheep, the fox and the hare.

And then I came, from up high, as an owl
to hunt amidst the moonlight and the birch,
screeching to silence even the wolf’s howl
and to make pellets of pelts from my perch.”

The Birch Witch laughed, then, and Aegis wondered
if he was a fool, her motives clearer,
but then came a glint of light that sundered
shadow from shadow—it was a mirror.

The demoness was tall, slender, a snake
with fine arms and legs and claws and a head
that looked almost womanly in its make,
but crowned in black horns, her smirking lips red.

But most striking of all was the gilt pane
embedded in her bark-scaled belly, fat,
for that mirror drew Aegis, as a rein,
and he could not but be spellbound by that.

Dismounting from his horse, Aegis stepped forth
with his sword forgotten in the saddle,
meanwhile the witch watched him, the haggard dwarf
warning that he should not let his wits addle.

Vanus, the demoness, spoke thereafter:
“Gaze, gentle squire, and witness thy desire,
for it is what thou most wish.” Her laughter
resounded through the glade in a great gyre.

In the molten mirror the squire beheld
the fancies of an ideal come to be,
but it was the deceit with which she veiled
the truth of his unconfessed vanity.

Aegis saw himself ornate with festoons,
gloried by men and women, one and all,
and beyond, his tale told on golden runes:
a song in every court and mead hall.

But the demoness lied, he knew too well,
for she smirked as oft the cruel squires did
just before they took to some fancy fell
and did what horrors honor should forbid.

Wroth, then, with himself and the other squires,
the Brass Squire lifted shield against the glass
fending off reflections of his desires
and smashing his dreams with his turtled brass.

The demoness screamed, as did her slayer,
for her demonic blood surged to scald skin,
melting his young face, layer by layer,
until he swooned unto oblivion.

When he awoke later, it was to pain,
his face a cocoon of loose cloth wrappings
while the Birch Witch advised him to refrain.
She said, “You’re not the strongest of saplings.”

She tended him for a time, with great care,
applying honey and sap to his face,
but though stronger, he was no longer fair,
nor had she regained her youth in its place.

“We both of us lost,” she told him, weeping,
“but you lost most of all, my poor young man.”
Aegis said nought for a long time, keeping
his griefs to himself, if but for a span.

“I am free,” he said, “free from dreams now past,
and though it aches alike my face, I yet
seek to be as shield made in fire to last,
branded to remind me lest I forget.

I am free to do as duty demands,
free from the temptations that slough like skin
peeled by your tender, careful hands, such hands
that could have slain me in the chance given.”

Then the Birch Witch and the Brass Squire both smiled,
smiles pained by the scars of Time and of War,
seeing one another true, unbeguiled,
and journeyed forth into the lands of yore.

Lost In Sand And Surf

Born at hightide, buried to the chin
among countless others on the beach,
shouting, coughing, the froth surging in
to drown all within its lounging reach.

Openmouthed to sing my song aloud,
I receive a swig of salty surf,
sputtering words, too much like the crowd,
our voices a chorus without worth.

Where are those who dig free from the sand,
those who escape the insensate tide?
They rise from these deep holes and can stand
in sunlight, moving with a strong stride.

Still, the rest of us remain entombed
while waves wash over the thoughtless trend,
never heard, never seen, each one doomed
to scream into the surf without end.

Ah, but could I not dig myself out
by merit of my mouth and its bite,
by my teeth, by grit and bit and bout
to lessen the sand that holds me tight?

Or is that sand not of the hourglass
and, so, the holding hole that is Time?
Do those who are dug out truly pass
beyond, or are those lands but birdlime?

Customary Wear

The attire of ideals ill-fit
in times of turmoil, times of want,
when hunger loosens a belt till it
slips to the ground, and we are gaunt,
nought but haggard skin, brittle bones,
starved from famines unbeholden
to kings sitting on their grand thrones
or prayer books long grown olden.
No, we waste thinner and clothing
slips off—robes, uniforms, and suits,
each badge, medal, and just-so thing
once honored by waxed marching boots
to give the semblance of order,
of hierarchy, place, power,
enforcing each make-believe border
between so-and-so in his tower.
The cufflinks slip off the narrowed wrist
like overlarge shackles from a beast
and the noblest scion cannot resist
the promise of the scantiest feast.
He springs, shedding old pretenses
like a Winter pelt cumbering
his hunt in Summer, his senses
overwhelmed after slumbering.
Even ladies doff their dresses,
their waists too small for bodices
as they prowl, twigs in their tresses,
wild-eyed like pagan goddesses,
seeking the next morsel to eat
to sate the pit between their ribs,
etiquette lost, thinking of meat
rather than wedding rings and cribs.
And children—children become ghouls
perching over impromptu graves,
soiled, feral, clutching bloody tools
while sheltering in charnel caves
to lick at cleaved skulls long bereft
of sustenance, the gray matter
drained, sucked to dry dust, nothing left,
though the children grow no fatter.
And so the ideals are piled high
like clothing for the End-Times pyre,
burning, smoke blackening the sky
as the starved and the cold aspire
to make a feast of their brethren—
naked, emaciated, stripped
by the hunger pangs and the ken
bestowed by the maw of the crypt.