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A PEACEFUL KINGDOM

It’s quite Dickensian,

I’m in the poorhouse,

Like the Romanovs,

Like Marie Antoinette,

But I didn’t fall,

I was never on high.

 

I was too young,

It wasn’t the time,

But still, I was king,

Against my will,

And then there was war,

Then a revolution.

 

My daughters, such beauties,

Shaved their heads

For good measure,

In preparation,

My son followed their lead,

My heir, to nothing.

 

A sheltered existence,

This, they lived,

Befriend soldiers, sailors,

They’re below them,

They’ll be married off

Against their will.

 

Dukes don’t interest them,

They watch from windows

Of their prison,

They wave and smile,

They see real life,

The real world.

 

Real world problems,

Hidden behind golden gates,

A freezing Siberian winter,

They could have been freed

If not for illness ….

Life as a peasant farmer.

 

Obscurity was all he sought,

He never crossed the border,

They remained home, alone,

He led warriors,

He was still less than a man,

Communists were on their way.

 

A sick son,

Could have died at any moment,

He was shielded from all,

All except the final bullet,

They couldn’t afford an uprising,

An uprising upon the uprising.

 

Three hundred years of rule,

Over in an instant,

Letters to tutors, loves,

All correspondence was censored,

The truth was never told,

It’s all supposition.

 

Watching landscapes fly by,

Closing the curtains at every stop,

They’d have had their heads,

And then they were separated,

The final act neared,

They’d be reunited, briefly.

 

Turn and face the wall,

We can’t stand to see you,

All you desired was a quiet life,

But you weakened our nation,

You needed to be on display,

You needed to show your might.

 

Take your mind out of the sand,

There’s danger near,

It’s at your doorstep,

You’re right son,

We protected you for nothing,

The royal line ends here.

 

We gave our all,

We did so in silence,

Behind closed doors,

Now we see hateful imagery,

We’re herded from place to place,

We need to learn fast.

 

What will be the outcome?

The white army’s surrendered,

They’ve laid down their arms,

Now we’re done for,

They fought valiantly,

Without the passion of the reds.

 

I was inept at the crucial moment,

We all ran from the facts,

One daughter saw clearly,

She was wise beyond her years,

She ought to have reigned,

All I wanted was peace.

 

Thankfully, there was no trial,

A show trial,

The end came swiftly,

We lived and died together,

This was as we wished,

Now we know peace.

 

Out on the front line,

On the front foot,

They didn’t see this,

I put my life on the line,

They saw but pomp and glamour,

What more could I have done?

 

Put up a brave front,

It’s a farce,

We’re not courageous,

We closed our eyes,

We dreamt away our troubles,

Upon awakening they remained.

 

And so we’re forced out,

There will only be blackness,

The bleakness of our final days,

The people had their way,

They’ll suffer down the line,

Ours was a peaceful kingdom.

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THE YOUNGEST SON

Lost, forgotten,

Never found,

Never unearthed.

 

Luck on his side,

Had he behaved?

We’d not know him,

His name ….

 

A scandal, this story,

Apologise,

A forgotten prince,

Blotted out of history.

 

He was happy,

They weren’t,

You can’t stand:

Don’t come.

 

Bulimia misunderstood,

Quite a common defect,

There are no defects,

Not in this family.

 

Don’t marry in,

There’s no getting out,

There’s a hopeless future.

 

She’ll never take the throne,

Rest assured,

She’ll be killed off.

 

You speak nonsense,

You don’t know shame,

Not mine,

I’m a subject.

 

I’m in the system,

They count heads,

Mine’s one among many.

 

Head in the guillotine,

They got out,

Heads rolled.

 

And now I’m here,

I can’t escape my past,

They laugh openly.

 

We’ll free ourselves

Peacefully ….

We’ll never be free.

 

Have a cup of tea,

While you wait, tea,

They won’t hear you out.

 

It’s gruesome,

It’s incestuous,

They’re all handicapped.

 

Read the letters,

A fault here, there,

The guilt ….

 

The child’s left alone,

No parents who care,

A loving nanny,

She was cherished.

 

Our time was saved,

We needed not worry,

All the time in the world,

It was never scarce.

 

We didn’t fight for privilege,

We were the elite class,

And he died young,

Mercifully.

 

Never were we next in line,

We still held our heads high:

We’re above the masses.

 

The child will stay behind,

He’ll be waited on,

He’s no life skills,

Like the rest of us.

 

He’ll never marry,

There’s no one for him,

No one amongst his friends,

His few friends.

 

The intelligence of an imbecile,

We had to turn our backs

For the good of our name.

 

Locked up as he was,

Let out twice a year,

His parents would visit ….

 

Contrite, they were,

They should have stopped there,

At five: five was enough.

 

In a sailor suit,

Always, whites and blues,

The navy wouldn’t have him.

 

Playing the fool

At formal functions,

He was the jester.

 

Always underprepared,

Homeschooled, hidden away,

They’d nowhere to send him.

 

The war intervened

Most conveniently,

There was no easy travelling,

No backs and forths.

 

They weren’t on the front line,

Their faces needed to be seen,

They could not appear afraid.

 

They went on the offensive,

Their livelihood was under threat,

They survived, not their youngest son.

A FACE FOR TELEVISION

Let him starve,

Flames bore,

The stake’s obsolete,

The rack’s prevalent.

 

There’s no evidence,

He’s innocent,

Deport him.

 

A shady character,

He set foot inside,

She blew his brains out,

Only it was her husband,

She was acquitted

Then committed suicide.

 

A common course of action,

They take their own lives

After attaining their freedom.

 

Long forgotten cases

Remain unsolved,

Black and white footage,

Newspaper headlines.

 

He’s bankrupt,

The trial broke him,

He fled to Cuba,

The Cubans fleeced him.

 

We don’t want him back,

Not guilty though he may be,

There’s no reason to refuse him.

 

His wife left him,

He disappeared into obscurity,

He had his moment in the sun,

His name in the media.

 

He always had his face about,

At every private function,

It was easy to do him in,

But he always had alibis.

 

A beauty, this she was,

A face for television,

She was on the radio.

 

A convenient intruder,

Was he paid?

We’ll never know.

 

He wasn’t tried,

There were bigger fish to fry,

They’d never find the truth.

 

She wanted him gone,

High priced lawyers, a must,

They hold more sway than the judge.

 

Final instructions to jurors:

‘It would be best that she not be convicted

To avoid appeal upon appeal’,

The jury took his advice.

 

Twenty minutes of deliberation,

They slept in separate beds,

A pistol beside each,

They were easy targets,

They knew this.

 

She’ll inherit his riches

As per his last will and testament,

She’s untouchable,

There’s love in the air,

There’s heartbreak

…. staged heartbreak.

 

She took his life,

This is without doubt,

But she defended herself,

Her husband always knocked

Before entering her chamber,

This time he walked right in.

 

Strange sounds outside,

Why didn’t he announce himself?

It was a matter of urgency.

 

The poisoned chalice,

Hand me a glass,

Poison darts,

A poison pen,

Writing story after story,

Horror after horror.

 

They have to make a living,

Concocting fairy tales,

The prosecution,

Journalists in caps.

 

She was broken by the trial,

She left the court sobbing,

Supported by loved ones,

Had the verdict gone the other way?

 

Had she been led off in chains?

How would she have reacted?

We’ll never know,

She’d have shown no grace.

 

Easy pickings,

Still, they stray,

There’s no steady hand.

 

Show no emotion,

You’re playing with their lives,

You don’t even care,

You don’t realise.

 

The lowest echelon,

They work for pay,

Never for justice.

 

Show your true face,

You’re the hangman,

You pull the strings,

You’re the puppet master.

CANDLELIGHT VIGILS

And so the story goes,

With this song playing,

Played live, so they say,

They were rigid and stiff.

 

A man saw the proceedings,

Headed into the other room,

He could only just hear them here,

A woman moved slowly towards him.

 

A ghostly figure appeared before him,

He saw rotting flesh and gizzards,

He couldn’t say how he ended there,

A strange bar, a hotel, a concert hall.

 

This is all based on five minutes,

He didn’t remain for much longer,

Too many strange happenings

For an unbeliever as he was.

 

And then there are true stories,

Children stepping off high ledges,

In a drug haze, into the abyss,

Leaving grieving parents and twin behind.

 

He sought to replicate his father,

His father in his youth, that he’d read of,

But his father was into harder substances

That put him to sleep, where there was no trouble.

 

Wake up before you go on stage,

Wake him up by any means,

Cold water in the face does little,

Icy cold water. He’ll miss the gig.

 

Now stories are endlessly told,

There are rumours aplenty,

He was murdered! But by whom?

Who wanted him dead? Only one.

 

She lives out a life of luxury,

She knows the truth. She won’t say it,

There’s nothing to say. She was shocked,

She’s yet to turn the page on the chapter.

 

It’s been a long chapter,

She’ll never see its end,

It will die with her, for good,

Then there will be peace for all.

 

She’s obnoxious, eccentric,

Thinks she knows the world,

The world’s a mystery to her,

She’s falsely confident.

 

She troubles nobody,

She’s quite an innocent,

Quite naïve, and she won’t

Go quietly, in silence.

 

She enjoyed the attention,

They were her happiest days,

There was no limit to her joys,

She thought it would be unending.

 

It ended with his demise,

She only stole what was needed,

Her image, a few chord progressions,

She didn’t write what she’s known for.

 

She poisoned his wine,

He handed her the glass,

She was flabbergasted,

She threw the glass across the room.

 

The shatter was heard next door,

The liquid burnt a hole in the wall,

There was great amusement,

That would have been his innards.

 

She resents his aid,

She needs it not,

So she tells herself,

He’s now passed it.

 

He’s over the hill and

Her glory days are done,

She had one last chance,

She blew it, played the wrong card.

 

He looks down on her fondly,

On high, he’s glad,

No more earthly torments,

He’s now free to roam.

 

No more living in cars,

No more obstacles,

He’s no longer bedbound,

He flies free, over walls.

 

He wished her well,

He had high hopes for her,

She had her triumph then left,

She proved them all wrong.

 

A strange face stares out,

Mouth raggedly open,

But he could play the guitar,

He played it long into the night.

 

He resembled a legend,

He had the same hairdo,

He did more than was expected,

He exceeded expectations.

 

Two deaths in two weeks,

It’s most suspicious,

She killed her bassist?

It seems most unlikely.

 

Sell off his knick-knacks,

Those that weren’t given away,

‘You’ll regret it’,

Maybe she does.

 

She wished to see his back,

She wept with the crowds,

There was no fear,

…. candlelight vigils.

WARD OF THE STATE

Trash can full to overflow,

Dirty dishes piling up.

I think of Emily ….

If only I had her wealth.

 

Dancer daughter of writer,

Locked away in asylum:

‘For her own good’, they said,

I learnt of this somehow ….

Not from books. No:

A low budget documentary.

 

She was seen from scene to scene,

Paris was where it was at.

She’d an endless source of income,

No. Not from her work

Which was indeed popular,

She lived off father’s fame.

 

Then he died. Then she was confined,

All she had left were memories.

A cruel mater, never sought to know,

To understand. Send son away!

Never! He did nothing wrong,

For he did nothing. He’d no skill.

 

The same temperament as pater,

But she didn’t have the right,

She had no means to fight,

She went quietly away.

There was little treatment there,

What type of hospital was it?

 

There was never any regret,

She decided her own fate.

She went out and always returned,

‘But look at the hour, young lady!’

 

She could have posed for artists,

She had far more in mind.

She could have had anorexia,

She could have had it all.

 

And she penned poetry, painted abstracts,

In her cell she was without pen,

Without paintbrush, canvas. She withered,

She died of boredom, not of illness.

 

I remember: they played song after song,

All by the same artist: most tiresome.

Hence, I now boycott the place,

The bar where I once knew love,

Unrequited love, true. I told anecdotes,

I recounted my life, from left to right.

 

From under the rock I peered,

The rock, it hung, as if by magic,

There’s a movie set here,

Based on a true story. True.

 

They went missing, mysteriously,

Young girls, a group, out for a picnic.

Now they’ve no more worries

Unless they’re also imprisoned ….

 

A grand day to set out,

The sun shone high,

The weather was most pleasant,

In their best Sunday dresses they were.

 

My Saturday whites were stained,

Too much play; not enough work.

Yesterday was a day off,

Not even caused by a breakdown.

I just wasn’t at peace,

All wasn’t right the day before.

 

I was cursed by my own self,

I could have set out and sat.

I’d have written and written,

I’d have forgotten the dramas.

Great drama, exaggerated:

I wished to see her. I don’t know why.

 

In truth, I don’t care for her,

This is my choice, my right,

She’s just pathetic enough for me,

Hence, we’ve always little to say.

 

I’ve little to add: she’s a bore,

They all bore me to no end.

I cut out my own self,

I turn myself off then leave.

 

Could she be a love?

I don’t consider her as such.

I loved her then she disappeared,

She was out of sight, out of time.

 

No word came though the lines,

She could write. She couldn’t send letters out.

She vanished. We heard rumours:

A jealous mother. Call in Freud.

 

The music cuts in and out,

The speakers give way.

The wires must bend just right:

They’ll soon be released.

 

An unmarked grave for

A ward of the state.

She could have been great,

Now she’s drug-addled.

The drugs do a world of good,

They keep her calm, unmoving.

 

She skips to an unheard beat,

She flitters and flaps about.

She doesn’t associate well,

Not with fellow patients.

Patient, prisoner: there’s no difference,

There’s only endless spite.

 

It was for your own good,

We don’t believe you.

Unshackle us. Let us wander,

Let us wonder. There’s awe here.

No light shines thought dirty windows,

Dirty, barred windows. Such is life.

THE THUNDERSTORM

Cut off,

I keep an eye out.

I see no light,

Not a one.

 

So I seek courage,

I draw power from elsewhere.

I still know nothing,

Nothing of the world,

The outside world,

The world where they live.

 

I remain,

I pray

That the outage

May be short.

 

Is it I who is the cause?

I tempted fate.

I thought I did no wrong,

Yet I am cursed.

All that I know is gone,

Flown out the window.

 

The open window lets in air,

Warm air, true,

Humid air.

Shall I open another window?

For what purpose?

To allow in more heat.

 

The extension cord spreads far,

Across the floor of my room.

I’d understand in another setting,

If I was completely blacked out.

 

For how long have I been without?

Alone and feeling lost.

When will it return to normal?

No more short circuits.

 

I remember what is was like

To see my neighbour out of context,

Dressed to impress,

To impress whom?

He was in his element,

I was out of it.

 

Drink from an untouched glass,

Shoo away a small fly,

It’s irritating,

It’s all over me,

My front,

In my face.

 

I have nothing to walk towards,

I am in darkness.

Music still plays,

Calming music.

They know the words,

They read them in a book.

 

My dictionary’s incomplete,

Pages fall to the ground.

Only you mocked,

The others understood.

 

I don’t know if I’ve got work,

I have no way of knowing,

The scourge has got me,

It grabbed hold and didn’t let go.

 

They say what they say,

They don’t even think.

I’m used to my fate,

I suffer it wisely,

I don’t fight it,

I accept all with grace.

 

He died that year,

The year that this saw life,

This soft humming

In the form of song.

 

I can still imagine,

There was an attack,

There was gunfire,

I wasn’t employed.

 

I could have been there,

They suck all my energy,

I’m now without

At the worst possible moment.

In mornings I see visions,

It all seems false.

 

His hair gets everywhere,

I carry him with me.

He remains alone,

He doesn’t know when I’ll return.

He estimates,

It’s sometimes easier.

 

I collect dirty rags,

I go to the river to clean them,

I’m surrounded by women,

They do likewise.

 

Then a thunderstorm hits,

I have the river to myself.

I save my dollars and cents,

When did it cease?

They do works,

They curse me.

 

I have no recourse,

I’ve no one to call,

I’ve no phone numbers,

And if all worked fine

When he came?

He’d still charge me.

 

So I sit and wait,

The night had its way,

It had its way with me,

It forgot me at length,

I was but another conquest,

Now daylight’s come and it’s done.

A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE

We’re calling to speak to her,

Your little lady,

She’s not here.

When will she back?

She’s never been here,

I’d wager she never will.

And she’s not my little lady,

She’s my mother, fools,

Two calls for no gain.

 

Maybe there was a purpose,

They wanted my fortune,

I’ll never hand it over.

They’ll take it by force,

They’ll take my crown,

I never wanted it anyhow.

I wasn’t made for this life,

I’m no royal,

They’ll have my head.

 

I married a Spaniard,

This amused me,

They didn’t know how to take it.

They didn’t understand my whim,

I want an heir to my throne,

I told all I was with child.

The child never came,

I stayed in my chamber longly,

For months, to avoid the humiliation.

 

Then I begin my mission:

Burn heretics at the stake,

The fire is brilliant.

Then, again, a child,

A child that wouldn’t be,

I was losing the plot.

The Spaniard has no attraction for me,

I’m not an attractive specimen,

I hear of all his conquests.

 

I compel him to come,

And come he does,

He remains briefly.

He has his own kingdom,

It was a marriage of convenience:

I speak Spanish fluently.

This counts for little here,

I never pay him visits,

I’m quite occupied here.

 

Wage war on the continent,

Lose our final foothold,

We retreat in shame.

My final failure,

My reign was shambolic,

My place will revert to my enemy.

A bastard child, like me,

But she’s a great beauty,

They’ll love her.

 

I’m forgotten,

There’s no shrine for me,

There’s a mere plaque.

It’s behind bars,

Symbolically,

This is where I sent enemies.

Where I belonged,

They couldn’t touch me,

I died in my own bed.

 

Give way to a pragmatist,

She learnt from me,

From my errors.

I never erred!

I did what was right,

We needed to revert to our roots.

They didn’t listen,

Catholicism throughout the land,

My father was a fool.

 

Bride after bride,

An illegitimate child,

You believe him yours?!

He’ll die young,

This is fitting,

He wanted me out of the way.

He had his way for nine days,

Then troops stormed the throne,

They showed her mercy.

 

I would have liked horror,

A horrific death,

They were kind-hearted.

Who would have refused?

A life of luxury,

She had it anyway.

She ought to have remained in her corner,

It’s all incestuous,

Why don’t they think of uprising?

 

They once tried to overthrow us,

We sat and drank a quiet tea,

We talked out our differences.

The country is in turmoil,

Politicians have no say,

It’s an absurdity.

They need our firm hand,

Even if this means losing their lives,

They’re all lowlifes.

 

They cheer on executions,

They’ll be next,

Next in line.

There’s a resemblance

To our folly,

We all go the same way.

We could have been great,

A great nation ….

Too much bloodshed.

 

She’s a peaceful queen,

She’s weak,

She has no beliefs.

She stands for nothing,

She hides behind her righteousness,

She’s pious.

She’s pathetic,

The land will weep her passing,

She’ll name no successor.