Poetry Blog by Holden Moncrieff

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Aviva Rifka Bhandari on How many minutes to midnight? (5 days ago)

Stephen Gospage on How many minutes to midnight? (5 days ago)

Brian Hodgkinson on Wolf (Fri, 12 Feb 2021 02:12 am)

Brian Hodgkinson on Gods & Playthings (Fri, 12 Feb 2021 02:07 am)

Brian Hodgkinson on Zeitgeist Zealots (Fri, 12 Feb 2021 02:03 am)

Brian Hodgkinson on Autoimmune (Fri, 12 Feb 2021 02:01 am)

Brian Hodgkinson on Uncharted (Fri, 12 Feb 2021 01:56 am)

Aviva Rifka Bhandari on Nyx (Wed, 10 Feb 2021 06:21 pm)

Philipos on Zeitgeist Zealots (Wed, 27 Jan 2021 09:24 pm)

Brian Hodgkinson on Mythomania (Wed, 27 Jan 2021 05:13 am)

Ignis Fatuus

A will-o'-the-wisp wields

too much power, phosphorescent

as it is evanescent, invites

the traveler to mistake 

the swamp for ground

to exalt. 


But the ignis fatuus caresses

those weary irises for

moments of reprieve, then

proves just as vacuous

as a midsummer night's


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Halcyon Days

Alcyone and Ceyx, queen and king,

stepping on the toes of deities, 

thinking it all a little game

to call each other an Olympian name. 


But Hera and Zeus don't find it much fun

and, quite gleeful to unleash their wrath,

they feel that Ceyx deserves a gift:

yes, a thunderbolt on his ship.


A metamorphosis then for Morpheus,

god of dreams, turns him into Ceyx,


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How many minutes to midnight?

A Doomsday Clock ticks

while hope is on hiatus.


To relinquish control: a feat

of herculean proportions.


How long before a knuckle-duster knock

forces you to timidly open the door

to whatever checkmate now has

your king decidedly under siege?

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Pernicious Pyrotechnics

This pain is protean.

It was born to shapeshift.

It morphs from bitterness

to fear, frustration

to regret, and

the tracer fire you deploy

as you traverse war zones

in a past tense, illumines

nothing more than a child

trapped in thought,

made to believe that

existence sans achievement

never belonged in the 

worthy's lexicon. 

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Names carved on weathered bark

With a futile conviction of forever.

They've seen the seasons change, sighed

The occasional 'O tempora, o mores!',

Pled guilty to the charge of hoping too much

That a forgiving breeze could still

Dress their wounds, shush their shoulds,

Then erase every trace from the bark...

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Before the Broomsticks

Cassandra in a coal mine:

A canary meant to reign

Over the genus of the accursed,

Destined to be burnt

At stakes not invented yet.


Why does every age crave

Its dose of witch-hunts?

Always ready to indulge 

In a delirium of scapegoats

Skinned and lashed?

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On a scavenger hunt for Excaliburs

to marvel at but abandon in stone;

the lofty goal carefully selected

to grant the mirage of aspiration,

assuage mundanity's machinations,

plant cobblestones on unbeaten paths,

all the while knowing that

the final wave of triumph

must come from Fate's false flag.

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Who truly gets to spin

the wheel of destiny?


Is it a prime mover with a grudge?

Or man, according to his

rarely compos mentis plan?


Perhaps it's a universe

with shoulders that shrug

whenever we play with knives

in our neighbour's backyard...

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Ripples of fear soar

to form rogue waves.


Cells leak uncertainty.


Cue the short circuit.


The chaos gives cover 

to the cronies of Time.


So they coalesce 

to resurrect every 

fleeting thought of Death,

as they compose

their master's magnum opus:

a cheap pastiche

of a prince's 

"To be, or not to be"...

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It takes two to tango...

Delilah speaks scandals sotto voce,

Delights in sealing Samson's fate,

A temptress of such calibre and skill,

A taunting tyrant welcomed in.


Then again, Samson chooses the fool's fetters,

Relishes his time spent in tethers,

Surrenders vigilance for pleasure's sake,

And so: misses the gleaming of her blade. 

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Would we be better off

If life had a blueprint?

A cipher for the pitfalls,

For the obstacles a rubric?


But wouldn't that drain 

Discovery of its delight?

Who wants the poetry of dreams

To turn prosaic at the seams?


Fortune's quicksilver acrobatics

Might draw out a gasp,

But grace is only forged in fire,

With a pirouette on high wire...

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High Priests

Pronouncements made with an air

Of that 'je ne sais quoi'

And a dose of Delphic grandeur,

Harbouring the same obscurantism

That served the Pythia so well.


So our demand to have a prophecy substantiated

Gets scrapped, lest the mysticism be vitiated,

And we're left scratching our heads,

Wondering whether there was indeed

A special something in those oracular leaves!

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Lost in a crescendo of lament

while the crows of terror portend:

you're the hostage they needn't perfect:

sightless in a shrinking universe of self.


Soon a micrography will suffice

to render the demise,

as you play the lead

in Vishnu's vaudeville. 


Yes, the drowning is violent

in this reality distilled,

and Galileo hasn't yet

with a dethronement intervene...

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Double Helix

Will the family tree forever forbid

the construction of a hamlet of hope,

insisting instead on a Potemkin village

primed for sardonic remembrance to pillage,

with all those anachronistic injections 

of melancholy and ire and rejection?


Perhaps the bloodline is too boisterous,

the pedigree far too traitorous...

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The stamped envelope is self-addressed,

the poison pen letter it protects

knows to hurl the vitriol

where it lands best,

where caveats are ignored,

paralysis cajoled. 


The recipient shall hardly flinch

at the abuse, won't dare 

regard it as libel or slander,

for, after all, when has ink

on paper spilled ever blazed

more alive, more convincing?

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Zeitgeist Zealots

A panopticon is not a panaceia. 

It does not preclude the optical illusion,

Nor the potential for delusion.

The scale on the map does matter;

For this is not the Lilliput royal court,

But a court of public opinion enthralled

With deciding the song and dance du jour,

Dispensing the diktat of the zeitgeist,

And though the suitors swarm the palace,

Telemachus is bitter and ...

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When the posturing is potent enough,

the hologram of holiness

may be mistaken for the original. 


When the memory is fervent enough,

the reticence of reality

could prove parochial, and dull.


When the aphorism absolves one enough,

the poltergeist of guilt

knows to retreat,

for forty winks, at least...

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House of Atreus

Orestes, by Erinyes hounded

For the hubris that amounted

To child morphing into murderer,

Acting on Apollonian advice;

And what could go wrong

With a god on your side?


Now the Furies won't forget

To exact their pound of flesh.

So what if it's sins of the father

That spark the spiral of doom?

It's Iphigenia, Electra and Orestes

Always draped in funeral festoons...

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Mangling the mea culpa...

They hold you by the hand

All primed, proper, and prim,

Your excuses clad in egoism

Like children made to grin,

Your bondsmen of bail

When the mess turns byzantine.

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The chorus chants approval

As you dance your demise;

The erosion of insignia


Regalia, suddenly alien, sold

For pennies on the dollar.


Frayed corners and sepia

Might seem like comfort now,

But as it seeps into the 


Remember: there's a bite 

To nostalgia... 

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Gods & Playthings

The thunderbolt of Zeus

incinerates the Titans

and the soot gives rise

to the sin we've called



But what do you expect,

being birthed blind

as a votary,

from the post-mortem

of a Titanomachy?

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There's that sadistic soundtrack

From your strange feedback loop:

It's your aria of errors,

Artfully woven by woes

Into a tapestry of terrors.


You can plug your ears all you want,

Scream 'La la la' like you're 5 years old,

The voices with few choices

Must now uncrown clarity;

It's the shadow self extorting parity.

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The Ego's Cuirass

The art in a covenant of hearts is

to break that treaty first,

gather belongings and 

memories of yore, and

from safety lament a

Rome burnt...

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Milky Way Woes

The skies are full of pies

For the dreamers who dare not

See that the cynic they condemn

Used to be one of them

Till the moon gave him a glimpse

Of the dark side of idealism,

Where the quixotic isn't merely hypnotic,

But more akin to kismet's Ponzi scheme.

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There's a pretender vying for the throne:

He's raised the drawbridge from self to sanity,

And schadenfreude will stain his lips 

As you struggle in the moat;


But perhaps there's fortitude enough

In a herald of arms who's learned

That bells shall sooner ring in plangency

For one who chooses virtue over pageantry...

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Time to dust off the 'Areopagitica'?

Have we not been sufficiently drenched

in the acid rain that is pseudo-politesse?

Can you not hear the crunching

of eggshells under the soles of our shoes?

Are we no longer entitled to honesty,

and satire, and sharp wits?


But be warned: sharp wits demand sharp tongues,

and your obsession with offence stains

the canvas of intellectual largesse. 

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Stephen Dedalus

Marching on with a soul that sighs,

Grabbing grace from within,

Confronting confession with a grin,

Tittering at the indulgence and the tithe

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All hail hypocrisy:

The one hiding in plain sight,

Mask intention in pretension,

Camouflage the sick, the vile.


Is that indignation really righteous?

Firm enough the moral high ground?

When every mirror's taken hostage,

Forgiveness gagged and bound?


Skin under their fingernails.

Slap. Scratch. Shout.

Now, now, don't waste that breath!

No one listens when ...

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Does each sip aim at sanctity?

As in, In Vino Veritas?


But why would liquid courage 

be required to express solid convictions?


Sure, Dionysus winks and grins,

but Apollo whispers: Aequanimitas...

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Of Ravens & Roses

The rose was succulent and red,

Spoke of passion and desire,

"Put it away," the raven said,

"Lest their ire we tempt."


You thought yourself invincible,

A knight, an angel of steel;

But what are you willing to fight for

When it's fire you breathe?


Wore the rose in your hair, 

The raven be damned,

The smell forever trapped in air,

Hail ignorance, oh gloriou...

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Middling Mimetics

When that idyll looms large in the horizon,

it becomes ever so hard

to kill those false idols;

for they're cashmere after rain,

knock-off panaceia to the pain,

the road seemingly less travelled,

and the seasoned warrior in battle.


They're all that you crave but cannot be,

because the fear of feathers ruffled

gilds the cage of safety.

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Shadow à la carte

If only the bristles of a paintbrush,

The powder of an Etch A Sketch

Would a personality provide,

Make you master of your chiaroscuro,

Let you determine and decide

Just how much chaos

Good people get to criticize...

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Treading Truths

Once upon a time, a reticent raconteur

encountered a professional flâneur;

the former asked the latter if a point

lay hidden in his picaresque existence,

at which our wanderer took no offense, 

but simply said: "At least my path

I respect; I search-find-lose,

while you swell with tales yet choose

to never burst, even though you know

that in a sea of everyday shells, 


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Sloganeering in a Field of Straw Men

In the age of slogan veneration

And the vortex of misinformation,

Can you hear that hammer?

It's meant for the penultimate nail

In the coffin of nuance.


There's a bumper sticker serenade

Spreading and puncturing

The ear drums of the susceptible,

But perhaps La Déesse Raison

Can still swoop in ex machina?

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Beat It

The anthems of co-dependence reign supreme. 

Simple words, an artificial beat.

Love songs they call them.

In cars and bars and clubs they blast them.


But in the quiet of the real

that beat sounds obscene.

Because it takes a world more

than a catchy tune to make

one out of two.

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The Witch of Wellfleet

'Cherchez la femme' and heartbreak,

even for the prince of pirates.

Mary has his son in a barn,

alone, without Black Sam. 


But it's Barnstable's Old Jail

she now haunts.

A child born; a child lost,

and she waits still

for her Robin Hood of the Sea.


She waits in Eastham,

for one who'll never come...

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The Stoics, or Insta-Stories?

Living through an age

during which you are blessed

to be able to annex

the Wisdom of every sage

the human race may boast of;

yet you choose to engage

in the trade of Narcissism

unbridled and reprobate?

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You built a castle of confidence,

the confidence of innocence, 

the innocence of ignorance,

and the ignorance of hope.


You hope the castle into a fortress,

yet the first stone still is cast

by the sinner and the brazen;

see? - already, there's a scratch.


More stones, more scratches, 

if you can't beat' em, join' em,

throw stones from the inside,


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