Poetry Blog by John E Marks

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Street lights no longer glow

As rain moistens the bricks

Of derelict buildings

The ground squelches as I stop

And tap my feet in the mud,

Get my bearings.

This grass colour is not green

Like before

But a battered brown

The nearest iron bar is not close

No choice but to walk

To where we'll meet

The reinforcements.

Must be five years since

The demolitions ...

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Some muttered words in uncounted time

Make me listen closely to your heart-beat.

Words can decline into cant – quick, flippant, arrogant

Listen! to Gregorian chants: gargoyles speak across the centuries

In silence, the stonemason’s art,

A palimpsest of languages:

Latin, Norman-French, English

Each overtaken in time

Vernacular or divine.

Blue eyes at the funeral.

No co...

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"As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die."  Frederico Garcia Lorca


what remains in the purpled garden

tattered garments 

resurrected in all honesty

your hands around your lover’s waist,

eyes shining with tears 

taste the brandy 

swilling around your mouth

look at the azure ocean,

so far from Barcelona and the battle for Madrid

you wrote about...

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Crocuses and snowdrops push up their merry heads

The cairn on the woodland path marks the unburied dead

The fleeting wisps of winter, white detrius on the skeletal trees

The very occasional dew drop hanging with the weeds.

This man he is an old man, Gaelic and rare,

Who stares into the fire, in his isolated lair,

An bóthar ag taisteal na sióga....

Aye, the road that the fairie...

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Occasional flowers

City without sleep where I am

Everybody sleeps 

They die in the sky. 

Moon people kiss

Kill like normal 

People who do not dream with a broken heart

Face the tender protest of the stars.

Nobody sleeps in this world.

There are lots of  dead men in cemeteries

Still complaining

The child they buried 

Is not a dream.

We climb to the edge of the snow with the colour ...

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From woman better things spring

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The Emperor of Constantinople - Emperor Theophilus (d. 842AD) -

Wanted Kassia as his wife.

Even though she defended icons

She was not ready to be a wife.

Kassia chose to become an abbess and poet instead.

Theodore the Studite  - a wise man indeed

Condescendingly wrote that he was ‘astonished’ by her erudition

Kassia was, it is true, very well-educated - as only Greeks can be -


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For Kassia: a bold and beautiful Byzantine poet

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The love of adultery is a sin of man

Devised to ruin the goodness of woman

And is a temptation that must accept:

The full springs of my tears,

As you who bring the rain to wash us clean and fresh

Bow down to the sighs of my heart,

You altered the realm of being by your incomprehensible incarnation

And now the followers of a desert seer dismiss your revelation

As less than n...

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Alternative histories

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On 29 May 1453 the Greek Christian city of Constantinople finally fell to Muslim armies. At least 2.5 million Christian Greeks and Armenians, who resisted conversion to Islam, survivors of the Byzantines, were slaughtered by the Turks, many in the early C20. Now there are 2000 Christians in Constantinople and 15 million Muslims.


Imagine that you are falling

Endlessly into a dre...

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Time's fool

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The beautiful clouds of a high summer sky

Rush by like a stone flung from a sling

Designed to bruise but not kill my stone dreams

Inspire me to sing the high-fluted songs of summer

Contrary to the dumb laws of matter

I wear my profusion lightly and glance behind the show-screen of coincidence

Into the heart of the matter.

Swans swimming with their young through these mome...

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An unholy curiosity

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The pungent smell of tar sends me back

To summer days spent wending my time away

As dandelions parodied the gawdy sun

And the pebbles in my pants were reserved for having fun by skimming water.

In the dark church heavy incense melds with the body odour of the priest

Sweating for his immortal soul while mixing an amorous alcoholic liquid on the altar.

Did I dream the frozen moment...

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Elegy for Anna

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Anna Campbell was her name and Kurdistan

Was the country in which she died on March 15 2018, the Ides of March

She was fighting as part of the all-female 

Kurdish Women's Protection Units, the YPG.

She was 26 when she died a long way from Lewes in East Sussex where she was raised.

She was killed by a Turkish airstrike - the Islamist Turks NATO-empowered enemies of the Kurds

Anna ...

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Dedicated to all the western volunteers who have fought and died with the Kurdish YPG to defend the Yezedis and to resist Daesh and their allies, the NATO-supported Islamist Turks. Including: Aidan James, 27, who is the second Briton to face terrorist charges after travelling to join the Syrian Kurdish YPG.


Allow all Yezedi refugees into the UK

The Ezedi: Assyrian, Zoroastrian,


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Oscar goes to the zoo

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Poor little Oscar is banging his drum

His mum's got a headache, she aint 

Having fun. He sprays out his patterns

Of cross-stitched beats and his Ma, well, she 

Just aint able to stay on her feet. His beatings  they tell

Stories of long long a go: when the cat had 

Her kittens and the dog he walk slow. Beating

A drum is a full-time pursuit but doesn't pay money and doesn't gain...

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On the way to the dance

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Follow the stream past the boarded up houses

By-pass your dreams on the Cemetery Row

Pass the quiet bridge on the edge of the moorland.

Listen to the caw-caw crowings of the ravens and crows

All that you care for still lives where you're heading

Follow the foxes to where street lights are setting

Rude postcards, the smell of candy floss, there's just no forgetting.

Though the ...

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Wild is the Way

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Ye old gods of the greenlands and the raging forests have gone to ground.

Your acolytes were burnt, stretched upon the rack, hung,  cruelly drowned.

For century after century until now. Druids — we who know the old, oak tree -

Were found only in histories, myths, tales. But, come, walk with me in this freezing mist

Of a deep-winter's night —  don’t get squeamish and don’t take fright. ...

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My hestitancy has bothered me for a long time

It is not the cruelty of children that angers me

But that my hesitation to commit the word to air

And, aye, maybe, to the heart, was treated as an affliction

By those with the polished shoes and starched aprons which set them apart;

Sometimes I was not even there when they mocked me but I knew

What they did and 'never-a-bother-it-was-...

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The Scylla,

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At last the Kraken awakes in waves

Of towering seas and air that shakes.

A hungry colossal octopus drops

Like a cephalopod sea-monster

Into your dreams of Norse sagas

Of giant size casting cliffs into seas

Roaring fiery folklore like screaming

Yarns and pen and wash drawings

Of giant squid inking their way into

Nightmares of sheer size bamboozling

Exhausted eyes into ...

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Pain scrapes

At your nerves

Leaves you in tatters

Feeling sore,  weird,

Screaming inside

Yet thankfully alive

Trying to hide the pain

From your loved ones

Gritting teeth

No analgesic relief

On and on

Even till the Finnegans wake

And you can sleep.



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There is no patriotic art, just grievance

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    "Glücklicherweise kann der Mensch nur einen gewissen Grad des Unglücks fassen; was darüber hinausgeht, vernichtet ihn oder läßt ihn gleichgültig." Goethe,  Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities), 1809

Fortunately, people can comprehend only a certain degree of misfortune; anything beyond that either destroys them or leaves them indifferent.

Historical grievances are held clo...

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The swinging bridge

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Under the swinging bridge flows the old canal 

Bridgewater canal built in 1761 to carry coal to Manchester

To fuel the industrial revolution, the black Satanic mills

Full of women workers on their first step to emancipation
And on one late summer day one sailor met one mill girl
She reminded him that joy came after trouble.

Manchester at night was a strange stage for their love affai...

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Just deserts

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I struggle every day to remain well,
It's an obstacle course, of sorts,
Yesterday, I was ko'd, knocked out,
But before the count of 10 I was 
Up again, fighting to recover my balance, poise. On my toes
I rise to the challenge. Today,  I Am fasting, The best detox I know,
Hoping I will recover, in time 
To watch a film, have a meal,
Get up from my bed. Be well.
It's been like this since ca...

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The moon is set in ice my friend

The heavens sparkle and shine

The old guy staggering in the cold

Looks out at the far-divine.

Money for food or money for heat

He gathers his coat around his feet

And he dreams of the heaven he knew as a child

When everything was lovely and everything was wild.

So, you, look at anything except this screen

Raise your voice and scream


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To the ghost-dancers of the Sioux - dedicated to my good friend, Jacob

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Don’t let the fat white males into this land

They have no concept of stewardship

They think they can own the air and the land.

Watch them massacre the holy bison:

The white buffalo is dead

Their bodies rot under the sun.

These men have no respect for themselves:

They are rapists and child-killers.

They love watching sadistic pornography.

They spoil all the Great Spirit h...

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Why we need to fly (for my good friend, Jacob)

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Nothing happens unless we dream it

Poetry is the sea mammal who loves the land

The man who wants to fly

Unaccompanied by engines

The regret we have at words not said

Under the summer moon 

When she looked so pretty

Like a  flagrant crimson flower

With the power to subdue

We, who lurk in the dusk

Smelling the beautiful musk roses

With the wild red leaves,

We love...

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Change, that's what's need

Leave our egos in bed

Let our imaginations roam

Che and I rarely saw eye to eye

As we passed below the Oxford Circus

Clowns hanging around

Learning to pontificate, always

Too early, always too late

Face death, be bereft, grow up

Read the book written in the stars

In the etchings of a beloved's face

Grow wise, no disguise

Learn that not...

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Pouring out the vitriol

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Vitriol exhibits at a heavy price,

Slices through our softest parts,

And always emerges as stinking farts.

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Tiny victories

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I ride the wind, this cutting wind

Cures me of indolence, regret

Towards the close of day

Clouds swirl blue celebrates

A tiny victory

Cynicism drains away

Thoughts tumbling over the cliff face

Thoughtless man lacks the will to care

The whole green earth suffers at his hands,

A women's care is gracefully sustained

It is her flair to create beauty, even in the barrenest...

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Bottle neck blues

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A terrible thing happened today.

She took her life and went away. 

Her rickety car matched her blonde hair.

Wild and more than a little desperate.

She is a nightingale ghost singing to me of the insanity

Of leaving young parents to bring up children isolated

With no help from anybody. Her voice echoes

Across the years of coping, scraping by; while

The rich old have money un...

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The club of the clueless

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So, are we fit for purpose?

Are we the game changers?

Walking clichés begging to be banned?

Can we obfuscate meaning

Rather than convey it?

Add value-added granular

Deep down and dirty content

To the verse? Good.

Now we're thinking outside the box

Swiping the low-hanging fruit

Singing from the same hymn-sheet.

For, in language as in life,

All that glitters just ...

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Growing older but no wiser

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The love we have for mother, father, sister

Is inculpatory evidence of mere humanity

And enables us to see, half-way,


The merest movement of the moon

Will shift the seal that hides the veil

That moves us all to the tempest's sail

And storm and thunder-struck avail

Across the fields of corn and gold

Until the years, when growing old,

We walk along the mee...

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Holy Brokenness

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Missing the wildness of my younger self

I degenerate into words. Waiting, between

Sentences, for the Muse to catch up with me,

I fulminate, flash like lightning, explode so

Violently that I catch myself thinking this

Is an all an act to compensate for the time

Brian climbed that tree before disappearing

To Japan for all eternity. I wish Haiku was true.

That an apple blossom...

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A way a lone a last a loved

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Paul Léon was murdered in 1942, 

In Auschwitz concentration camp, 

Oświęcim, Poland.

A Jew, he was Joyce's friend,

The Joyce of Dublin & Galway,

Trieste, Zurich & Paris

And, off course, Anna L'Liffey,

She who riverrun on & on,

Even till the Finnegans' wake.

Joyce lived in Paris for twenty years

He was so poor but everytime he had money

He always paid for everyone i...

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Wild Butterfly

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Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly

This natural magic of transformation

Can happen to you too. Time makes you

More beautiful. Human metamorphosis

Liberates souls. Such a rare achievement

Requires an emptying of the mind and a deep (and so painful) compassion.

Defeat your expectations; free yourself and you will see

The passing beauty of a butterfly. 

Butterflies live fo...

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Property is theft

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We own nothing

Maybe, stewards we are

Passing on, even adding to,

But I don't think mother Earth

Would think that

Plastic fantastic mess we make.

At best we're renters

For a wee while

A daily subscription. at best

We take nothing with us.

Not even ourselves.

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

And this whole fucking

Cornucopia of law

Protecting private property


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Angelus Bell

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the tone of the big bell settles in the dust

of this small market town in county meath

and on the stained glass window still

the sun-marked resonance of bell


circles of uninscribed sound


through all the cerebral centuries


chimes and chants for christ the king

chimes of crucifix, pyx and plate


these bells have blessed the insouciant faithful


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A drinking man

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Sitting in an old, damp boozer

Brasses polished, leathers gleaming,

Wood, dark mahogany, glows.

In the dark daylight lamplight

Watching, now, the snow flakes tumble

Out of a heavy sky

Nature's green, and man's concrete grey

Gradually evolving into this whiter

Shade of pale.

Yes,  a pint of porter's your only man

Nobody dares to disturb

This chapel of rest


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No woman is an island

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I can hardly speak but I will try.

My brain falls silent, still;

It is the dying of the day

When a ferment  of tenses

Lead me up many cul de sacs. 

Lingering a moonlight-figure

Mirrors the sparkling frost,

He's gone but never lost.

Suspicious of the silence within,

Outside all is wild, the colour of blood

Soaks the sky.

On a barge meandering down the river


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Ye Madcaps Of England

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England is Britain's last colony

But we English are an awkward lot

We like to make our own decisions

And not delegate to Westminster

Or to the EU. When we watch our

Politicians prevaricate when we've

Told them exactly what to do:

Leave the EU! Then our long fuse

Starts to burn ever-so slowly

And our long memories surface too.

The first country in Europe

To execute ...

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All that love can do

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No matter how we invent this writing malarky

Or, how, precisely, we feel about it,

There is a wondering within our hearts,

And a hiding between the folds of our soul;

So much more than a mirror

Mumbling at us, incessantly,

"There's a story to be told,"

But all we hear is:

'Fear fear, fear terror, fear anguish'

Untold stories circle within us

As we try to live sec...

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If Revisited

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If you can see the good in everyone

And not condemn the less fortunate

If you can speak the plain unvarnished truth

When all about you are prattling prevarications 

If you are patient with those who lack intelligence

And when faced with stupid bias you do not duck or dive

Or respond to haters with hatred

Or respond to the wicked with dread

If you can modestly accept success...

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Pseudobulbar affect.

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Sudden uncontrollable crying,

Embarrasses the English

Laughing, or feeling anger can occasion crying

A symptom of a condition called pseudobulbar affect (PBA).

This 'emotional incontinence' is spreading

Outwards like the ripples on a lake

Music is often the trigger

For a flood of tears

Sometimes it's just 

The passing of the years

For me it's cruelty

To children or...

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The swan's last waltz

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Lithe legs spread

Neck stretched

Feet splayed

Like a swan-song

Toes strong

Fingers pulsing

Then snap

A pirouette

A spectacular series

Of whirls on her toes 

He circles her on the ball of his foot 

Musical, muscular movements mingle and mix

A shiver of white as she jumps

A catching of the breath as she slumps

Into his arms;

A choreography of bodies


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Right to remain Silent

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I mean....

Let's just assume I mean....something....

There's a putative purpose to words

Even if you think they're quite absurd....

Or offensive or sexist or racist or classist

You get my drift? Some words = sh...

Something wrong with the words?

You don't like the implication?

Offensively an aberration?

The palace of protection

Is in charge of all public


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Prayer Flags

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Everything depends upon today

Washing lines billow 

In the breeze of time

Conglomerations of colours

Rainbowing sedately along

A swan-song

On the same Tuesday at differing locations

Diverse people walk along winter's coasts

For the final time

Milk floats

Figs date

Prayers and mantras 

Blown by the wind


Compassion throughout space-time.

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A ladder to the stars

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Mabinogion was reborn as a lover. She set out to rediscover why idiot savants sent the hot wind, the Sirocco, inflaming those who saw seas, skies, mountains with a yearning to drive out  the Barbariaid Saesneg and return to Arthur's court all the delights of Celtic culture. Building a maze of fires across the hills,  the bog poets, extraordinarily gifted  idiot savants, saw the ripples that invasi...

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A nightmare in three acts.

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A large private house. People I don't know but who say they know me. They don't. A disorientating mix of normality and extreme distortion. A work connection is claimed. It is a lie. I feel isolated and vulnerable. Distorted faces. Strapped to a chair. Nobody there. Convinced these people are in disguise. Nowhere to hide. People fading, becoming insubstantial. Such stuff as dreams are ma...

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Only the rivers run free

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In England we can pursue a ladder to the stars

Our nation's due a new beginning. Four hundred

Years ago we executed a king, a commonwealth

Came to be. The English peasant was the freest

In Europe. The millenarian Fifth Monarchists,

Evangelical Quakers, proto-democratic Levellers,

Libertarian Ranters, and communist Diggers.

It was such an exciting time to be alive and free.


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Death of a Gambler

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It's hard to see in the dark

But your eyes grew accustomed

To the gloom of the winning line

Short odds on the grey market

On foggy days in November

Through the mists of September

You peered at the finishing line

Anything less than a head and you're in

On the flat or the hurdles.

But as you tried to spot the winner - 

Your eyes failed again and again - 

Horses, card...

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Your brother's keeper

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Try not to think the worst of folk

The best of us is a bantering joke

Mocking mirrors cleanse the soul

Laugh lines delay being old.


In the cold of winter do what you can

To help the the raggedy poor old man

Who tries to manage on his own

In a freezing room that he calls home.


Sharing food and time and money

Telling jokes and acting funny

Watching people grow...

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Let's keep the light we're given

When our stores of words are fled

Empty as a musical box 

Or a box for housing the dead;

When the bridge between giving and taking

Has crumpled in the dust-prints of mouse.

A Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie.

Then all of our days are a struggle: to walk

And to dream and to think; when the gates of the new

Jerusalem appear blinking ...

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