Submit your poem to Vita Brevis’ third haiku competition!
The American woke
His fire crackling in the cold air
A figure, pottering about in the fog.
And then a musket coughed
Flame and led through the night
And the figure slopped into the mud.
Somewhere in the mountains
A hunter yipped, his barrel smoking.
He’d shot a native who brought only gifts.
And a million more would follow.
He wasn’t really himself, not anymore.
Whenever he joined the ranks, he got lost
In a demonstration of blue.
And war wasn’t war like he thought it’d be.
Not endless struggle with only a moment to breathe
But stretches of precious nothing
And then flickers of light and sound
And then the sprayings of a friend
Who caught one in the chest
Who sunk into the mud
At different depths, depending
On all they stuffed away
In their sacks. In their guts.
And where were they taking themselves, anyway?
Into that demonstration of grey, to the warring side?
Or into the earth, from which they came?
Kekule, that bookish German
Who spoke chemistry more fluently
Than his own native tongue
He fell asleep by the fire, a riddle in his head
And, even in dreams, tried to solve it.
And then one spun full circle
And it bit its own tail.
And he woke.
And he knew:
That the ancient shape,
The snake biting its own tail,
It was a closed-carbon ring.
Alfred Lord Tennyson said
That since we see a straight staff bend in a pool,
God must be at work.
So, I wonder if when he spun a crystal prism,
He felt as if he shook His hand.
Because all I feel are photons and rays
Curve and refract.
And I feel beauty too. But worldly beauty
Which is all that rings true.
Which is all that reigns
When the water bends the staff
And Tennyson prays.
We’ve one foot in the present
And another in the ancestral past.
That’s how Dr. Elling signed off,
Uncertain if it really made his point,
But happy with its eloquent ring.
Sometimes our tone is more triumphant
Than our ideas, he decided. But that’s alright.
Sometimes that’s just what we need.
[Originally Published in Vita Brevis]
Light, for the first time in millennia,
Came and lit the cave’s corners and nooks
Like a flashlight down a well.
And then the flare guttered and died,
So, they backed away from the edge
And shuffled back into the wall for security.
The moment of revelation was over
But the images would never leave them.
The layers of the earth this cave bore proudly
Before returning to its endless night.
It revealed more about the men
Then the cave.
And as they roped up and rappelled down
They didn’t speak.
Because the cavern felt too sacred.
The darkness too silent.
A word, a light, a breath,
It would be a betrayal.
For, somewhere deep within them
They felt at home. Back at Nature’s breast
Off of which they’ve long since been weaned.
Originally Published in Vita Brevis
Otto Dix – Crater field near Dontrien lit up by flares