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Three Poems

I am; we are A million miles or more from our nearest star
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CREDO

I am; we are

A million miles or more from our nearest star.

We absorb us, I absolve me,

Profligate in our insensitivity.

One day I find us sitting with me

At the wrong end of our apple tree.

One day I find us sitting with me At the wrong end of our apple tree
One day I find us sitting with me At the wrong end of our apple tree

RESIDUES OF OURSELVES

I am old enough to have known a good many deaths

First and second hand, close and bone-crushingly near.

Sometimes unnoticed for a while, because we only care to feel

People who are habitually near as the residues of ourselves;

Not those who are in the world among their own. Lives entwine

Only to disentangle and distend. We remember the ones who live

And disremember the corpses left behind. Corpses that are

No longer people, and we can betray their memories at will.

People who are habitually near as the residues of ourselves; Not those who are in the world among their own
People who are habitually near as the residues of ourselves; Not those who are in the world among their own

And betrayals, in an age of surviving precariously, can be forgiven

As a means of survival. I’ve known a few of those too, situated conveniently

Between simulated affection and awkward indignation, fumbling for reasons,

Justifications sought in quickly-feigned hatreds and dispassionate judgments.

Those who are dead have not betrayed you. Which is probably because

They were gone too soon to do so. And so we mourn them. And fear the living.

STRANGLED HORSES

It’s an ordinary day in an uneven month in the country

Formerly known as Ind. An old man in a prison cell

Reads himself a fairy tale. People say

He was a poet once. But he wrote

In a language no one can read, and

For people who are now long dead.

...But he wrote In a language no one can read, and For people who are now long dead
...But he wrote In a language no one can read, and For people who are now long dead

We remembered him for a minute

In the land we knew as Hind. When

It was time for memories and mourning.

Officially, once a year, or maybe twice,

We remember a poet or a martyr,

And in some years they were the same person.

 

It wasn’t such a good idea to be a poet, then.

They were liable to cause all kinds of

Misunderstandings. Poets could not be taught

By governments. And governments hired poets once

To write. At the risk that their poetry

Was mistaken for government.

It wasn’t such a good idea to be a poet, then
It wasn’t such a good idea to be a poet, then

There was a poet once, though, who gave voice to

People whose governments had cause to be uncertain

About who it was, or what it was, that the people

Wanted of them. It’s said he died,

In a year in which the martyr and the poet were

The same person.

 

And it was a fine old poet that once

Roamed the lands of Hindustan. Had he been

A woman, or oppressed in any other way,

His way with words would be no more majestic

Or alluring. And he spoke to people

He had no right to speak for.

But they say he was a poet. And poets

Have strange rights that they claim

Without their being bestowed upon them.

And in the lands of saffron kings, and

Strangled horses copulating with wailing queens

A weight has been lifted from the conscience

 

Of all who came to know of themselves as poets

Or as scholars, for them we now know that

Poets, like gods and heroes, and dodos and dinosaurs,

Are either long dead, or are not believed to exist.

And so it is, in the worlds we have known,

That governments have been freed at last.

All Images: Freepik.com

Benjamin Zachariah works at the Georg Eckert Institute for Educational Media in Braunschweig, and with the project on the contemporary history of historiography at the University of Trier. He was trained in the discipline of history in the last decade of the previous century. After an uneventful beginning to a perfectly normal academic career, he began to take an interest in the importance of history outside the circle of professional historians, and the destruction of the profession by the profession. He is interested in the writing and teaching of history and the place of history in the public domain.

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