You may think this is contrived, but the two poems here that start with flowers end up seeming quite warlike. Meanwhile other poems on the subject of wars, turn out comical, witty, insightful, unexpected, analytical. Perhaps all it means is you never know where you are with a poem, until you read it.
There is struggle in Kathleen Cassen Mickelson’s poem Tenacity, which turns out to be about violas but entails much disorder, protest and small scale violence. The small, modest perennial has been redefined in terms of tenacity.
As if the violas’ fight for survival wasn’t enough, the red hot pokers in Neil Leadbeater’s poem seem to have it in for the violas’ cousins, the pansies. Both the plant’s name and demeanour, and the sharpness and the likeness to sheet metal are threatening.
David Whippman’s unusual poem finds something accepting and funny in one of the most famous stories of war, which may or may not have been as traumatic in ancient Greek history as it is in our global affairs today. Then Rachel Bentham lays into the subject of modern war in, perhaps, rather abstract terms, in a poem that is relentless in its style as well as baffled in content. You knew where you stood more, perhaps, in the ancient Greek wars.
As a tailpiece, a very short poem in Scots from Sandie Craigie, also about Blair’s Iraq war, a poem she performed in Edinburgh at the time – performance was always Sandie’s first form of publication.
Thanks to all these poets for their interesting work, which we are happy to present once again for public perusal.
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson
They’ve appeared without invitation,
last year’s seeds come to life
with yellow and purple petals scattered
among dark green astilbe and goatsbeard,
their pansy faces turned upward in defiance.
Tender scalloped leaves mark emergent siblings
who beg for mercy as I rip out nearby dandelions.
I honor them.
The audacity with which
the squatter flowers have built a settlement
in the midst of a garden rife with rabbits,
where weeds are regularly beheaded
with sharp hoes, where the resident
chipmunk uproots seedlings with abandon,
forces me to acknowledge the strength
of these lovely and fierce violas
who have rioted right here, outside my door.
This poem first appeared in Every Day Poets in 2009.
Red Hot Pokers
As children, we avoided them.
Now I admire their boldness. Those vivid flames,
that shout from the back of the border. And then
there is the matter of their dishevelled foliage,
a rag-bag of gorgeous greenery
that manages to strike, in all its accents,
a supple, gainly pose.
Below ground, there are massive rootstocks.
Each of them waits to be lifted
into the keen air of Spring.
Dividing them, I ignore the defiance of those who
dismiss them as vulgar. To me, they are as sharp as
a slap in the face for the pansies, raucous red
and out of key –
plants that sit bolt upright; unafraid to be.
First appeared in Poetry Cornwall in 2006.
After the Siege
According to the poets, this is how it ended:
the tall towers still ablaze,
me struggling in my husband’s arms
as he dragged me to the waiting galleys.
I yearned, they say,
to join my love among the dead, to drown myself
in the sea (which was of course wine-dark.)
In reality, things had become tedious.
As I stepped distastefully around the corpses,
I reflected that Paris would not have aged well.
Back here in Sparta, life is bearable.
There is a young envoy from Corinth
who is pleasing to the eye…
Oh, and by the way,
I don’t think there were all that many ships.
Originally published in Prole.
War – the concise version
contention between people
this is how we begin
the ‘art of war’
it’s certainly not a science
strategy and tactics
been in the wars
that which violates
the international laws of war as if laws aren’t the first out
of the window in wartime
war of attrition
war of nerves
war weary just reading the words
(Published in ‘100 Poets Against the War’ ed Todd Swift 2003)
switchin yer television oan
is like inviting a bomb
inti yer livin room
but it’s no the same is it?
coz in this war
we’re the cunts
Performed at protests and readings 2003, and subsequently included in Coogit Bairns, Red Squirrel Press 2015