Poetry Blog by Holden Moncrieff

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Holden Moncrieff on Pharisaic (6 days ago)

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Philipos on Pseudologia Fantastica (Sun, 18 Apr 2021 12:28 am)

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A Thousand & One

Scheherazade devises a plan

To wear tales like jewels

And use them as munition

On her ever noble mission

To assuage a sultan's wrath,

Till he simply has to know

Of all fresh follies

In strangers' stories,

And is thus safely enrapt. 


So to spin a good yarn

May transcend the realm of art;

It can be the armament you need

To resist tyrannical caprice. 

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The glass of hours

salivates and devours

the moment too long

it took to forgo

the role the force

of habit assigned, 

rendering you thus

yet another conscript 

in its granular

army of sand. 

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A vernacular from the bowels

of the ancestral tapestry

that seeks to preserve

the familial alchemy,

a saw-toothed serenade for

the generations' cavalcade;

but if self-begetting

is the goal, is it not

high time you maimed

that mould?

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Lethal combat before

A Theban wailing wall.

Brother versus brother.

Polynices and his six

Against usurping Eteocles. 

A double fratricide. 

Not even zero-sum.

Mutual assured destruction

No longer a safety valve, 

But a cold, blooded fact.


The jigsaw of hubris

Won't be complete

Until noble Antigone

Clashes with the crown

Of Creon, and marches

To her...

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The endoscopy provides a verdict:

Cause of the potentates' malaise

Is the footrpint of a pharisaic

Adherence to norms prosaic,

That aim solely to maintain

The appearance of beatitude

And conceal a kleptocratic attitude,

While the clamorous miscreants

Inhale plumes of smoke to be spewed,

And trail shattered mirrors to produce

A tale of funhouse phantasmagoria

To dis...

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Kafka's Door

Stuck on the wrong side

of Kafka's bespoke door, 

professed gateway to the law, 

with a lock and key made to fit, 

and a gatekeeper quite akin

to the dreaded hound of Hades. 


To plead, cajole and bribe

adds only irony to the plight,

for Cerberus cares not

for the tremulous who fawn. 


Action sans sapience, 

sure-fire path to stasis;

yet the psychomachy ...

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A leopard's leap of faith

For the ability to claim

A primordial goodness

In the collective nous,

When the cable ties of comfort

Dictate the deleterious refrain,

Whereby a barrage of bullets

Signals one is thrice betrayed

Right before the rooster.

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Is there a sentinel

on life's citadel

who has a view

panoramic and true, 

who can sound 

the foghorn when

it's time to eschew

the bane of knowledge

from the bosom

of an apple tree,

and choose to let in

particles of light

that alight on souls

weary from crosses

cumbersome yet trite?

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Play snakes and ladders

With the night sky,

Spot the Seven Sisters

With the naked eye,

Pontificate on the chasm

Between tactile and phantasm,

Take umbrage at the adage 

That time is the master-healer,

For Atlas still carries the heavens,

And Chronos plays the hand-wringer. 

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The sky brims

with umbrellas


for a rain that

never comes;


the other shoe


in mid-air,


as crows


the doves.

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Life dressed in riddles

And speaking in synecdoches,

As angels and demons

Tap-dance on the spokes

Of a Hephaestus-forged

Wheel of fortune,

The whims of which

Seem to narcotize

Clarity out of its wits,

Just to crystallize

The notion that devotion

To a destiny definitive

Will forever be laughed off

By the empyrean

As the arrogance of


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Consult the almanac.

Perform a litmus test. 

Check the astral alignment. 

Find faces and facades

In soggy leaves of tea;

Anything really, to avert

The momentum of an impulse,

Safeguarding thus, sans reversal,

The title of loyal dweller 

In the stronghold of inertia.  

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Pseudologia Fantastica

Lies reeking of pathology,

Omissions pseudo-sanitized

By good intentions, as they

Venture linguistic crimes

With a con artist's pride. 


Second-guessing shall become

Second-nature, as you learn

To trust solely in fitfuls,

Because you can still smell

The burning flesh from that

Last time defenses were lax

And trust was considered apt.

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A psalm to act as balm.


A canticle to chronicle

the fall.


The howl of humanity

that laces the humdrum. 


The cartography of an apocalypse

as mandatory manacles strive

to burst into marigolds. 

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North Star

No matter the thalassic antics,

there's always a glow soterial

without motives ulterior, 

to soothe the seafarer's blues;

a little magnetic comfort

from the sky's anchor:

Polaris to the rescue, 

a benediction uttered in

silent resplendent diction.


An invitation of friendship

from the firmament

to the Magi of the sea,

a little something fixed

amidst the w...

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Flight before the Fall...

Your wings are made of wax.

They make a foe out of the sun. 

But each piece of them that drips

Proudly declares that you've lived. 

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A rocking chair.

A back and forth. 

From present to past,

Past to present, as

Future rests uncertain.


Myriad tales to be told,

As the phantoms of yore

Loom more real than

The aims of today. 


An anticlockwise choreography 

Needs seatbelts fastened,

The fireplace crackling, as

Lanes traversed are interspersed

With paths forsaken. 


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The Fool

Every court needs its jester,

Every king his truth-teller,

A daring gadfly to pester,

To challenge myth and legend,

To render reality in the demotic,

Before the realm turns despotic. 


So don't look down on the fool,

He's there for a reason:

To see beyond the pomp and crown,

With a bout of Socratic inquisition. 

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Life at a standstill.

At the crossroads of Hercules,

Vice and Virtue battle it out:

At once, Vice tries to entice,

But Virtue knows patience,

So her time she bides. 


Arresting presentations ensue,

As each of them previews

A simulacrum of what could be,

Murmurs of a life he might lead. 


There's kaleidoscopic excitement

With casual ethics on offer,

Or a ...

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Stuck On the Inhale

To exist as an emotional

contortionist means learning

to perform at will

the mind's matchless

circus tricks.


It means the ability 

to enter a room, 

speedily gauge moods, 

and adjust demeanour 

to appease, though

there's no guarantee

you'll escape the

charge of sin. 


Of course, breathing out

is not an option,

as you prepare for

the next con...

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In vain...

A torchlight procession. 

A search party for what's lost.

Screaming their names in a forest:

Meaning, Purpose, and Control.


The screams are primal

And tainted with despair,

For there's no talisman to rival

The booted march of time,

No sign compellingly apotropaic

To make a dent in history's mosaic. 

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The mantlepiece memorabilia

stand at attention, salute

and await marching orders 

from the commandant of memory, 

ready to parade gauzed-over 

truths, a panoply of sibilant

echoes, from times jubilant

or dreadful, like a 

mischievous missive from

all that's missing... 

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L'Esprit de L'Escalier

A performance review

of the repartee

finds it subpar,

the mot juste,

the witty remark

never uttered 

when it mattered 

during the

aforementioned badinage. 


The gibe meant to

jolt the combative

interlocutor might

have been pithy, 

but it got carried

away by Lethe. 


Still, no need to brood,

"verba volant" holds true

at any rate, so 


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A career politician, 

or dastardly magician?


A portfolio of expediency

and a finger glued to the wind

for the Machiavellian tactician. 


It's all sleight of hand

as coins disappear,

and rabbits out of a hat

only as he electioneers. 


The act is cheap and on repeat,

but somehow it never ends,

different costumes, different props,

an audience ever read...

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We stumble along in semidark,

a patchwork of epiphanies,

an amalgam of antipathies,

with a celestial chaperone,

or maybe freer yet more

alone, armed with half

a Rosetta stone, trying

to transliterate hieroglyphs 

into an alphabet of runes, but

crude metaphrasts that we are,

we never seem to land

on a lingua franca,

one that might afford us

a common place in t...

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Chekhov's gun

In the dominion of madness,

Without hope as a harness,

Lurks a game of roulette;

Russian to be exact, where

The cylinder of a revolver

Traps a bullet carved, to

Spell 'Character Assassination'

In lieu of 'Resignation'.


But this is Chekhov's gun,

And all you need to do

Is keep it off the stage,

So there's no trigger to

Be pulled by the third act

For the s...

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The notorious tend to pen

a memoir that reads more

like a grimoire, brimming

with tales of spells cast

on unsuspecting sycophants,

as the cast of heroes and

villains gets re-arranged

to play the narrator's 

revisionist redaction game. 


But one may yet unveil 

the farce: all it really

takes is to parse

the pretension pleading 

to be housed in the pantheon


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Carry your contradictions

like precious cargo.

Embrace the adventure

and join Jason's Argo.


Set sail for Colchis

to retrieve the Golden Fleece. 

Know that Hera has your back,

but courage is yours to pluck up.


The journey won't be without loss, 

but you'll defeat the Clashing Rocks. 

A white dove shall see you through,

thanks to the counsel of Phineus. 


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Moods on a merry-go-round

That spins archaic sorrows

Into the freshest battleground.


A round of Cluedo

To pass the baton of blame, 

Point fingers at the culprit,

Condemn them from a pulpit,

Make a skin-of-teeth escape

Yourself, win another day

To placate the carousel. 

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Motif Mania

The human fascination with

pattern-seeking, and the

comfort afforded by said

patterns' supposed meaning,

can hone one's affinity

for the artifice

of synchronicity. 


As randomness and chaos loom

ever so large, to believe 

life mates with geometry

may satiate the wish

to envision that 

everything does

happen for 

a reason.

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What-If Analysis

The unexamined life might

not be worth all that much,

but what if you get trapped

in the purgatory of memory,

no moratorium on melancholy?


That's where rumination reigns

supreme, and the brain succumbs 

to bribery, falling prey

to fake advertising

of a score-settling splash,

an ersatz denouement. 


So commences the dissection

of thoughts, utterances, de...

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Contemporary Catechesis

An unelected commentariat,

consistent in the role 

it never auditioned for:

fervid leader of the Chorus,

sounding the clarion call

for initiation into the cult

of Conformity, where uniformity

is lauded and applauded, there

lies a bounty of laurel-resting

and sufficient ego-nesting,

all while hidden codicils

wink and threaten

a withdrawal of goodwill

for whome...

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All the Bethlehems in the world

couldn't grant you that re-birth,

the one you crave and need

to defeat the grinning labyrinth. 


The corridors are contaminated

with seedlings of doubt, 

inklings of dread, yet

you still unspool the thread

Ariadne gave you, and

pray it's no jest. 


After all, what's a maze for,

without its roaming Minotaur?

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C'est la guerre?

They plucked the feathers

Of the white dove,

Smothered them in tar,

Took pliers to its nails, 

Scissors to its tongue;


Then cried when creation 

Eerily laughed back...

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Travel Brochure

You'll most likely need a sherpa

for the foray into that

mountainous terrain known

as the Land of Disillusion. 


When there, make certain

you sidestep the cadavers 

of notions once fondly

regurgitated because innocent

brains were indoctrinated. 


Disclaimer: there may be no elixir

to bring back like in every 

decent hero's journey, other

than a clarity y...

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Catastrophizing 101

Shackled to a duty to worry

prior to any fact, sparring

with scenarios remote and macabre;

your very own soothsayer 

who never soothes--


--and all this done

in the foolish hope that

the suffering endured in advance

might act as prophylactic,

a universe propitiation tactic.

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Spanning the spectrum

from Pollyanna to pessimism

within a given day:

so it's dawn with Pangloss 

and dusk with Schopenhauer 

et al.

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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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