Download PDF Here 13th Anniversary
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three December 2022.
Visions of a Strawman, poems by Justin Lowe.
Visions of a Strawman
and the mass ranging from apprehension to terror
as always: only heightened by some others
crossing in serried ranks an invisible border
cautious of the strange fauna, the night sounds
wasting precious ammunition on the glint
of moonlight in a farmer’s grotto
and the cities emptied of the leaders and the leaderless
the myopic of heart and soul run to the hills
that echo with their wasted buckshot
and the names slowly crossed off a list
these others brought with them
a long list of those who spoke up
who dared to mark this day red letter
and were neither flattering or blithe in their appraisal
and now shown a pen and paper and asked to sign
and those who signed shot anyway
alongside those whose principles
rendered them briefly illiterate
and all of them erased
their names their words their deeds
no heroes no martyrs no graves to garland
just the blank of a bully’s face
as his blows hit home:
kookaburras laughing at the ships unloading
Menelaus, my friend,
you could not have written
at a worse time.
if I seem ungrateful
it is because last night’s frost,
like the breath of Euridyce,
a whole day’s work
fresh from the kiln
as you know
on our old day beds, friend)
your mother’s urn among them,
all garbage now
for the gods to rummage through.
my dear Menelaus,
is not even the worst of it,
for the boy
who tended the fire,
believing it was somehow all his fault,
has fled into the night –
last seen running for the hills
draped in meagre cotton from my mother’s loom
for a firewatcher
but not for the hills)
and the jackals
are no longer afraid
of our dogs
On the Frontier
there was no interpreter.
the last guy shot himself for reasons unknown
although we all noticed how he flinched
at even the mildest gesticulation.
there were hand signals
and the myriad triggers of a face
although in a land of bearded men
the conversations could be a little one-sided.
there was a lot of sitting around in circles
scratching at the dirt with a stick.
it is a windy country
so the conversations tended to be brief.
there were the children
who ran between us giggling
trying to read our faces
ran to tell their parents what they saw
and there were the orphans
who saw everything and were silent.
there was no interpreter to spread the news
that they had sent another interpreter from the capital
so the morning she arrived she was asked the password
(one of the many vital details absent from her brief)
she understood “password” well enough
and the sharp consonant of a gun barrel
but she was led away all the same
to some wordless space where she still languishes
like any woman with an education here
it is not so easy
to scratch “interpreter” in the dust
or the conjunction “where”
© Justin Lowe
Justin Lowe lives in a house called Doug where he edits poetry blog Bluepepper.