Poem: Terrorform

brown and black crater

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

From the first day let us start to terraform Mars,
make oceans from melting ice caps

and rivers run red through the rusty soil.
Day two let’s release plankton into the sea,

let out vast shoals of fish to feed on them
and steely predators to feast on the fish.

Day three we’ll throw spores into the sparse air
and watch the forests grow, the trees

stretch high up the slopes of Olympus Mons.
Day four let’s release mammals, birds

and other fauna into the forests and fields,
to watch them gorge on the goodness

of the land, enjoy the clarity of the sky.
Then on day five we’ll take ourselves

to the former red planet, to become
the feared Martians we thought were there.

Day six let us wage glorious, total war
among ourselves, make the rivers run red

in the name of the god who named this place.
And day seven let us rest, exhausted by labour

and lust, to examine our new abomination
from the safety of space’s vacuum,

in orbit with Phobos and Demos
without fear or dread of another first day.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019 and 2011

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What Goes Around

roundhouse3Providence recently took me to Flag Fen, a three and half thousand year old Bronze Age site in eastern England. What began in a field several decades ago with the discovery of timbers from an ancient causeway, has now transformed into one of the most significant archaeological sites of its kind in Europe.

Flag Fen lies at the fen edge, where the flat lands of the south and east meet with the higher ground to the west. It would have been a rich, much sought after environment then, one the most abundant in Britain at the time.

In those days the fenlands afforded a welcome bounty, an alternative to the interminable forests which had still not been extensively cleared. There would be fishing and fowling in the winter; in the summer as the water levels dropped, massive areas of pasture became available for sheep and cattle to graze on.

soaysheep

I’d been to Flag Fen before maybe a couple of times, though certainly not in the past fifteen years. It has changed of course, there is more to see and do. It even has some of its own Soay sheep to give it that authentic Bronze Age feel. But can we truly feel it?

What I enjoyed the most was the roundhouse reconstruction. That probably goes for a lot of the visitors, too. Yes, it’s only a reconstruction, but common sense tells you that it’s probably pretty accurate. Less accurate were my initial feelings towards these ‘primitive’ people who had to live in such dwellings. Standing before it, there was an odd sense of familiarity about the building. The roundness is, well, homely. It’s dark inside but not depressing, nor suffocating. In the summer it would be a welcome shelter from the sun and the heat. In the winter it would be a shelter from the cold with its wattle and daub walls, turf roof and warming fire. All year round it would simply be a welcoming family home. This would be one of the best alternatives to caves, which offer the same benefits of cool summer shade and warm winter shelter, a more organic and equable way of living through the seasons. It was natural, more efficiently heated than any modern house, even with the earth floors. And by the way, organic was the rule then, not the expensive exception of today.

roundhouse2But ok, so none of these people who lived at Flag Fen were literate. Yet they had a sophisticated working language, intimate knowledge of the seasons and the sky at night. Yes, life was very hard, brutal at times, and most often quite short. However, there was clearly a meaning to their existence. How many of us can say that about ourselves? The wooden causeways they built, the votive offerings of broken knives, swords, spears and other valuable items, they cast into the water either side: They genuinely believed a different dimension lay through and beyond that water. A dimension they inhabited after their death.

And who’s to say they are not right?

They experienced life directly, first hand. There was no TV: They had no news to listen to, no game shows or soap operas to watch, no video games to inure them to life’s crazy extremes. There were few distractions to prevent them from contemplation, the storytelling during the long winter nights. We can only guess who their heroes were. It was a harsh world, a verbal world. A real world. Do we live in a real world, or is it just different?

Neither was there any excuse not to pull your weight during the seasons: You either harvested, pulling together, or you starved. Everyone was involved, you invested your energy into your own community. You depended on your family, your community and vice versa.

roundhouse1So, would I swap my existence for one three thousand five hundred years ago on this piece of fen edge? Probably not, but I came away thinking that these people, invisible now, yet tantalisingly close at hand, were more than my equal. I feel I could learn a lot from them, discover something more meaningful in my own life, something better than merely typing these vain words, casting them into the ether. At least that Flag Fen farmer cast seeds that grew, caught fish to eat, slaughtered his own livestock. By comparison I feel almost like a pale shadow, whilst he positively interacts with his environment. So is there anything worthwhile I could teach him? I can’t think of a thing.

Perhaps we should reclaim (while we can, if we can) some of the practical, timeless knowledge we have lost, effectively go one step back to go two forward. It’s certainly foolish, arrogant of us to believe that Bronze Age men were in any way inferior to ourselves.

roundhouse4

© words and pictures copyright rp 2016

Poem: The Creative

Enkidu

Enkidu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inspiration is a leech on the
creature of conflict. How much
better it would be if our lives were
merely plain and ordinary, transcending
this light and shade, our existence
reliant only on plucking fruit
from a tree, cupping clean
water from a stream; and that
all my words and lines,
such as they are,
derived solely from love and light.

But we’ve seen to it, you
and me, have decided
to find out and exaggerate
every little nuance we have, to look across
at each other from these
dubious divides with poison eyes, our fixed
minds like two scorpions in a bottle.
And what we can’t steal or bribe or starve
from each other, we will fight for
to the end, till every last
sap of strength and all our blood is gone –
for that sweet taste of victory.

We’ve all spoken these platitudes,
though only seldom act
or relent. Even in our shadowy beginnings
the weary Gilgamesh knew; primeval
battles between dark
and light still raging on inside.
His remorse and grief leap out
at us from figures in dried clay like
they were made today, a reflection
of ourselves, our tears,
the lessons never learned. So,
if you must – go ahead.
Do your worst! Though please
make it your best
and I will write, endlessly

poem © copyright David F. Barker 2013

Poem: Blindfolds

think2

There is no crisis
that’s never been made, no war
we’ve ever had to join. Why
don’t you stop! – look

at what you’re doing? Don’t
accept it,
turn off the TV and ignore
the paper headlines stacked

in front of you, they lead you into their
traps,
their pigeon-holes.
What are you? Can a jackass

stare back from the mirror? Even
gods call you sheep, creatures who
need to be brought in – whoever said
this

should be so? The more I say no, each
time you refuse to
toe the line, so much sooner
you and I become us

and then we

© copyright David F. Barker 2013

I am not a pacifist, but most conflict is avoidable.

Poem ‘Abstract’

Abstract

Duty is an abstraction
reality something else
It requires open eyes
a vision without frontiers
a heart of kindness, acceptance
of nature’s prevalence
not some token paradise
where we are an aberration

*

20,000 cormorants are too many
‘they’re eating all the fish’
Seven billion humans
are sustainable, though
not everyone has enough food

poem © copyright dfbarker 2012

***image © copyright Neil Smith