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River's End

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Some nights, I can't sleep
so, I go out walking
following the river
in my discomfort and anxiety
All too aware 
of where we're heading
winding towards that war
no one can win

I pass bonfires of guitars
funeral pyres of pianos
strings all snapped
Art must be rationed out, now
There's a faded memory of a song
from long ago
that hopeless refrain, lilts
'these are our final days'

The cities seethe, swollen and diseased
remnant governments siphon off our blood
all the schools are barracks
hospitals lick flames from every window
Kids wear shrapnel like fast-food crowns
landmines pop like party balloons
Lorries scurry the broken masses
from one smouldering ruin to the next

A hatred crackles between the people
the rusted blade edge of civilisation
I feel helpless and heartbroken
panic surging behind closed eyelids
As humanity divides
the two sides meeting twice
once in their compromise
and again at the extremes

The river rushes ever higher
the floodplain quickly vanishes
I mourn the poetry of seasons
the grave of tenderness is washed downstream
I meet a woman, burying her daughter
From an old matchbox, I offer her
the thin stem of withered hope, I nurture
she waters it with her tears

“These are, these truly are 
our final days”

When we reach the river’s end
the night is at its darkest
just then a thousand suns light up
this crumbling northern hemisphere

Waking in my bed
I realise my dream
But is all this hell
still yet to come...?



bad dreamsend of civilisationhopelessness

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Wed 18th Jan 2023 23:22

Thanks Stephen. For this one, I originally had a verse for every disaster we're currently facing; climate, warming, sea level, disease, political etc and I walked through them all as my imagined family slowly died one by one along the way only find at the river's end was total nuclear armageddon.

However, I thought maybe this shorter version was probably enough 😂 Thanks for reading, commenting and liking.

P.S. Now with audio...

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Stephen Atkinson

Wed 18th Jan 2023 17:47

Beautifully conveyed, Tom. I think we've all felt like this at some point lately. The world seems to be rolling towards madness...🌈

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Wed 18th Jan 2023 15:46

Thank you Stephen and Uilleam.

2022 was the first time in my lifetime that I've genuinely felt the looming threat of nuclear war or attack. It has been playing at the back of mind throughout the year.

I'm usually good at rationalising the bombardment of fear the media shoot at us, but this time it genuinely felt 'inevitable'.

This poem is based on an actual dream and one from which I was very relieved to wake up.

Uilleam, I'm glad you had that reassuring voice during the cold war. And it was right. Let's hope my internal voice is wrong. I don't really enjoy writing about this kind of stuff. :) MAD indeed!

Thanks also to Frederick, Hugh, Adam, Kimberly and Chris for reading this one and for clicking like. I'll try and record an audio version in the next couple of days. 😊

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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Tue 17th Jan 2023 21:05

I was born in '48.
I remember as a child being worried by the "Cold War", and the Cuba missile crisis. A small comforting voice in my head told me "no-one could be crazy / evil enough to actually start a thermo-nuclear war"- the MAD (mutually assured destruction) deterrent?

Now I actually do fear for my grand children's lives.

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Stephen Gospage

Tue 17th Jan 2023 07:59

A very convincing poem, Tom. It really draws you in. As you say, one of those dreams far too close to (possible) reality.

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