Here the children lie
Placed by their parents side by side
Never to play or laugh again
A silent ache that never mends.

Here Mamma and Papa lie silent
Their coffins buried beneath green bowers
Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles
Sharing their eternity of grief together.

And yet we continue, you and I
We don’t know how or which or why we’re alive
Spared for no good reason we can ever know
Waiting our turn to be mourned in our own good time.

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Too many stones to remember and the people who will never be
This one won’t be a fireman
This one won’t be a nurse
This one won’t be a father
This one won’t go to church

Each stone is a reminder of what can never now be
All the hearts and minds and souls snuffed out before
They had the time to do needful things
Keep promises, mend sorrows, launch dreams
All now gone and forgotten every one

The grief of so many families and the sacrifice of so many folk
We claim to honor them by lying about what they died for
Because how ever noble their fight, the war didn’t need to be
The war was about money, about land, about oil, about winning
The war did not give a damn how many children died.

Every stone is somebody’s child.
And for every stone you see, on some further shore, there’s at least one more stone
One other mute reminder of another child who died
Trying to serve their masters, their ideals, their fears
These two are entwined in misery for all time.

This is such a sad legacy to leave to the children who survive
A cold stone is little comfort and seldom even teaches the lesson
That death is no reward
All the shattered lives and dreams and destinies never fulfilled
Over and over and over again, thousands at a time.

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Battlefield Graves

Memory fades. The dead are buried.
When morning breaks the screams are silenced.
If the dead had any message
They would tell us to remember
To not forget the murdered children
Who feed the harvest in fields of pain
Where their dreams died.

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Hiding, everybody’s hiding that they’re not dead inside.
Laughing, everybody’s laughing, because it’s not funny anymore.
Running, everybody’s running from the killing fear all around us.
Lying, everybody’s lying because the truth can’t hide forever
Dying, everybody’s dying to keep from living just one more lie.

Help my sister, she’s crying so silently, so silently.
Help her, she’s me inside
The outside never shows the blood that seeps from all those wounds
Getting better every day
Keep telling yourself, tell it every day.

The grip gets tighter, the days get logner
the nights never end
All I want is sleep, a dream I can remember.

In days of wine and thunder
She doesn’t want your pity, man.

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All our lives go in circles
Nothing is ever straight and just plain true
There’s always angles and different takes
That go along with all that you give.

Sometimes that’s a great gift – a real surprise
Coming back to the same place again and again
I like that kind of ice cream just the way  it is
There is no need to change it for me.

But life isn’t about ice  cream or gifts or surprises
There’s so much pain and death and horror to endure
Just one blessed day at a fucking time after another
Give me strength again and again.

Why was I so stupid – again? and again?
Am I uniquely incapable of learning from my own mistakes
There’s no consequence more inescapable than the
Natural consequence of being me.

In more than fifty years you’d think I’d improve
I’ve been alive of more than one hundredth of all recorded human history
They told me that mistakes were the essential ingredient to learning.
My own perversity tears me up.

Oh to be a character in a really good book !
In books people learn, they grow and they improve
They understand things and profit by them
Things resolve and the story ends

But my real life doesn’t imitate art, not hardly at all
I gave up long ago hoping for a happy fairy tale ending
But I just stay here turning on my heels
Like some deus ex machina ballerina.

Or perhaps an old war horse carved from aged wood
Doomed to traipse around and around the same old circle
Seeing the same sad old merry-go-round
Until my tired old ride breaks down.

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It makes me so angry, the horrible things people say
That can’t be answered, that need to be addressed
But it ain’t no use because their minds are so fast shut
Nothing I say can ever light their darkness.

Anything I say will just make them mad, like me.
Anything I can do will fail to have the effect I want.
Closed minds do not open with reason, they only scoff
Allegiances and prejudices are bedfellows, enemies of reason.

And frankly, I can’t be bothered, though it bothers me.
My anger gets in my way and keeps me from enjoyment.
And that makes some of these jokers happy
Their goal is my anger and frustration.

Seems a shame to give them the satisfaction
So I sit quiet in my turmoil on a gentle quiet simmer.
Or I get up and leave the cause of my disquiet behind
Wondering if I should really have made the fruitless effort.

And however utterly useless and inefficient
My heart screams out that there must be some magic discourse
That will convince the unconvincable and cure them of error
Realigning their world view to be consistent with my own.

What is my responsibility to speak up and call out error?
Am I remiss and faulty to my beliefs if I stay silent?
It is a terrible conundrum as old as time
And I am no closer to finding its solution.

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Going Away

Don’t know why anymore than where
No, not really, if you have to ask
But time’s a wasting and you can’t go back
Gotta go onward, ain’t no use.

Some folks talk about like its a train ride
It’s a journey they chose to take from
a long time ago into what comes next
Always made me kind of jealous
Like they have some kind of choice I never got.

And I never considered I ever really had an end
No, not really, it wasn’t a real thing to me
Not like what I wanted in the moment
Not like what my senses saw
Not like things that struck my fancy
Or moved my emotions.

Those things all came and went
They went their way and I went mine
For a while we went along together
And I was fine with that
But I never put myself in the same pot
In that same crucible of time.

She held me when she thought I might be leaving
Like she hadn’t done in a long, long time
And I held her the same way
Afraid of losing what I never knew I had
Not really, not like all those shiny things
I tried so hard to keep hold of.

Now I’m clearly not long for this world
Not by my choice, but it was my choice
Not because it is what I wanted
It is the result of what I wanted to do
And I don’t really mind, not really
It’s my own fault

But I can’t help disbelieving in anything else
Having had such a hard time believing
Don’t suppose it’ll make any difference when I die
I’ll miss her or she’ll miss me, as it happens
Time comes for us all
And finds all of us wanting.

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“No” seems like such a simple concept.
It’s kind of like “mine.”
It doesn’t have a half life.
It is terrifically influenced by context,
It is something everyone controls or no one does.
You’re supposed to know it when you’re five.
Some people don’t seem to learn it before they’re 75.
There is no bravery in it.
There is no stupidity in it.
It bounds the definition of things.
Like “you” and “me.”

Deep down we know when we lie about it.
But we don’t admit why we lie about it.
You’re not a slut because you don’t use it.
You’re not a prude because you do.
It happens between consenting adults.
It matches my expectations more often than not
Because more often than not I deserve it.
It’s a complicated thing that is so simple.

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Boy in a Mason Jar

What a crazy quilt collection
Just a kid, they say, he’ll get better.
Just give him time they say.
Daddy does not approve
Doesn’t understand or believe in what Al wants
He tries to be such a good father
Al would like to please him, but not like that
Or is it just more points he wants
Another comparison he can hold up
This crazy kid ain’t gonnna be your trophy Pops
Is his approval worth the cost?

He sets a fine example, he’d like to be him, someday
He has hurt a lot and it didn’t come easy
Can’t you just taste the prize
But it’s hard to cope and it should be
So damn simple – easy to understand
Why can’t it be easy? Isn’t it his job to make it easy?
Why does love slide into hate like a handshake
Made always to feel like a boy in a dress
Not any way for Al to be

Al is a dead cool dude really
Not that anybody’ll let him be
To be himself – makes you want to puke
In a closet of other people’s dreams
hurling pretty like an insult – daddy’s little something
Somedays it would be so much easier
Give up, give in, give over
So many people – the applause sign is ready to light
To hell with them or to hell with me?
Not ready to make that choice
To stealth or not to stealth, that is the question

Grow up? Into what exactly?

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So many ways ways to fuck up, Jesus.
Did I miss a single trick? Nope, not in this life.
No one trick pony here, that’s fer sure.
I know all the tricks, every last one, damn it.
Not that any of them work, not even a single one.

And you know what I know?  Not much.
I know a lot of things I don’t know, so many things
I know a lot of things I can’t do, so many more things
I know all kinds of things that will never be, like that’s a surprise
And I know that it’s all my own damn fault.

So what good does any of this do? Really.
She won’t believe me if I try, not again
She won’t believe me if I don’t, like she can tell the difference
There’s no great mystery here, just the odd lie
Can’t ask her for any more, not no more no how.

Mother, you should have loved me with a more critical love
You could have prepared me to understand what I didn’t get right
Yeah, it was all your fault when I was 10, maybe
But that was a long, long time ago – more than a generation ago
In the last millennium, before I wanted to die.

It would just be a lot easier for everybody
To take the burden of me off the universe, a real bargain
I have no great excuse really, just about everybody else does better
I do worse, same as always, nothing to see here.
It’s no surprise she’s given up on me.

Maybe she forgave me too much and too often.
But I can’t fault her for that, or anything really
She stood by me past any kind of common sense
And now when she’s come to her senses
I have nothing, hell, I don’t even have a reason to complain.

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