Chaos, Chance and Choice – Poems by Les Bush
There are three poems in this collection, written in 1981, 2011 and 2013. These represent some 30+ years of my life. Time might flow river-like; consciousness expands in quantum leaps. The completion of one poem opens the door to another: a world seen through new eyes, a new perception. All of these poems, written as they were in a specific context of time and space, can be read singularly in their own right. Perhaps it is the illusion of the passing of time, and the fortunate fact I can still draw breath, that gives this collection a thematic link. There is one thing for certain. These poems are special to me; they are as much a evocation of my thoughts as being integral to them. I trust you enjoy them.
When the battle is lost, the troops lay dead on the field:
Surrender, there is no point in continuing.
The poorly equipped battalions of Intellect, Emotion and Strength
had been flung against the mechanised regiments of Fate;
they were not enough; the battle had been hard, harsh, uncompromising.
Fate had launched its attacks precisely, without pity,
resisting counterattack after counterattack flung at its advancing columns:
it had been slowed down, that’s all. It ground forward relentlessly, dispassionately,
deliberately: the defences were too disorganised to stop it.
There are no reinforcements, the only option is retreat:
a desperate retreat; as each hard earned conquest was relinquished.
There is no retreat now, there is nowhere to go now.
The defences are exhausted, disheartened.
There is nowhere to go now: Defeat! The final encounter with fate.
In silence the final assault is awaited.
The Thinker, the Fighter, the Poet stand huddled.
There is no conversation, the frightened eyes say it all.
The surviving troops lay on the ground immobile: what had happened?
The war had been brutal, frightening, but it had its own sound:
a sound that filled the empty pauses, that gave meaning to the struggle.
Where had all the meaning gone? What had it all been about?
Why had they fought so hard, so fruitlessly? This was worse than the death of dreams,
worse than the scream of unborn pleasures suffocated in their inception;
worse than the demise of schemes born in the heart.
Oh, that silence! That cruel, punitive silence!
We must reason with it, said the Thinker.
No! We must fight it, said the Fighter.
No! We must confront it, characterise it, said the Poet,
There is no agreement. The argument is not new.
They stand, facing each other, angry, a divided command.
I could have done it, but you all let me down.
If only you had given me the time and the opportunity,
I could have lead us to victory. To the Fighter: you would not listen.
You attacked without planning, without seeking knowledge of the foe.
I could have provided that, you didn’t listen.
To the Poet: you were no better,
while I sought knowledge, facts and figures,
you sat writing of flowers and trees, gods and battles:
things that might or should have been;
they were of no importance!
You fool! The Poet replies; all the knowledge,
all the facts and figures you could construct
would not have saved us. All that you believed
to have knowledge of was that which I had given you.
I perceived it; you chose to ignore the warnings I gave you.
A shabby, uniformed figure stands, wearily approaches them
“Who are you?” They demand.
I am the Will, the motivation of you all;
until now I have followed each of you in turn.
It is only now I see how wrong I was.
I was created to lead, coordinate: I am taking over.
I am that quiet voice that lurks on the fringes of your consciousness:
whispering words of warning, admonishing you to take that next faltering step;
That strain of steel resolve hovering just above Reason
and a mite short of Faith.
I dwell in that haunting piece of music that resonates in your ears,
even when you are surrounded in silence,
or overwhelmed by the sheer noise and roar of the world.
I can be found in your favorite book,
that obscure piece of art.
I am found most often in the humblest of surroundings,
in those places where only you can find peace or tranquility,
suspended in the void between fractured words
in broken sentences, dangling phrases;
in words unspoken.
The silence has a new quality; no less deep, no less threatening:
but a distinct, qualitative difference.
The silence is no longer threatening. It cannot harm them.
It cannot touch us, said the Will. Together we are strong enough to face it.
There is mumbled agreement. What do we do now?
We re-organize, we start again. we salvage our strength, our pride.
Silence has no name. It has no content.
Slowly, they shuffle into line, one by one they call their names: an affirmation.
Smiles begin to cautiously appear; they have not been defeated.
Now was the time to start gain, consolidate, construct.
There is a pervasive energy now, a purpose to continue.
In the distance there is a bird call, so piercingly sweet and clear
it is almost painful to listen to it.
The bird soared high into the sky,
it seemed to fly so high.
There is our symbol, our answer, the Will said: it has freedom,
we have even a greater degree of freedom than it does.
Now is the time to grab and exercise it.
The sounds of the world; the bird song,
is beautiful: an anthem.
One battle had been lost, the war had not been.
It is not a time of jubilation, but of quiet thanks and determination.
There is still much to do. The process is still in motion.
Bowed, not broken the troops continue their re-construction
and resolute dedication to live life to the fullest.
“Cry Havoc! Unleash the dogs of war!”
Even in the tumult and carnage of battle
we will celebrate our shared humanity!
We will sing our fractured song of praise.
We will shout our lonely “Hallelujah!”
Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Yeah, Right!
Thirty years have passed, The process is still in motion!
It’s more of a drunken stumble than a walk.
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to talk.
Silence had no content, no form; but Nature abhors a vacuum;
so do I: like its domestic namesake, it sucks.
It is like a Petite mort (a small death).
Poised, waiting to fill it are swarms of doubt,
mistrust, casual cruelties, contempt and lies.
It is a naïve, desperate, stubborn (even absurd) act of Will to say “No!”,
to cling to hope – however small and battered it may be –
to embrace, without question or pause, the ragged remnants of all that is loving;
to exclaim that the true measure of life is the living of it!
In full knowledge that Death is patiently waiting, absolute and incontrovertible.
That is our contradiction, our challenge, our quest,
to embrace the challenge and unpredictability of life;
acknowledge the certainty of Death; to defiantly proclaim.
“Not Yet!”. To weather the Foe’s mocking, pregnant pause
– rife with phantasms and terrors yet unborn.
The Will would ask,
“Why do I proclaim such an imperative on hope:
and the reasonable expectation of the inevitability of the return of hope?”
To not do so would be to cravenly surrender to – and drown in –
the ocean of despair that calls me syrup-sweet and siren-like to oblivion!
To recognize and accept the challenges of adversity is not to give in,
give up or abdicate one’s imperative responsibility in life:
to take steps, actions or the setting of goals,
to validate one’s existence,
to celebrate success in whatever form it comes.
To have reason to believe that hope is achievable
and hope that the application of reason is a pathway
to experiencing the re-birth of hope.
We will celebrate our shared humanity!
We will sing our fractured song of praise.
We will shout our lonely “Hallelujah!”
We, the living: unpredictable, inconsistent,
perverse (even) as we may be
in our faltering yet stubborn adherence
to an absurd faith in the power of Love and Life.
We have a final line of defense.
We create, we procreate; dream impossible dreams
– and do our best to make them happen.
We share, record and transmit those things we value.
we influence, argue; agree and disagree.
We assimilate and accommodate
information and experiences as we grow individually and collectively.
In such a collective consciousness is our power.
as one passes the (sometimes, barely flickering)
torch of hope to another.
There will be more battles, more stunned and shocked silence:
more admonishment of the collective components
of “Who” and “What” we are, to hold firm and resolute.
This time, the Will can face the Foe; challenge it;
hold up a battered bridal bouquet, and say, “Death, where is thy sting?”.
You might take my body, my vitality: all that I am;
I will be immortal, treasured and sustained
in the loving thoughts and memories of others.
I can face my nemesis, and say:
I can and will make a difference.
Battle over: Death
Destruction and Despair;
huddled group, empty eyes,
await their worst fear.
Had it been the darkest night,
not the break of day,
they might have blamed their lack of sight;
might know what to say.
The brightest, the best,
no more aware than the rest –
lost in confusion, numbed,
Such a long battle,
so much energy expended.
Is that Death’s rattle?
Is this how it is ended?
They squabble, bicker,
blame and dispute
over who is the thicker,
concerned for their repute.
The voice of Reason is not enough;
The Muse, the artist has fallen short;
The Soldier? He just knows his stuff.
Argue, argue, without a thought.
In the end, it’s simple, the least
will ascend, to lead and admonish
– to focus, and say “I am the Will”, rest
and reassemble, gain your strength, refresh!
Battle over, the War is not:
always be another, live
and learn; don’t count the cost.
Gain from experience, give
and share with others;
individually, we are lost;
a child without a mother;
collectively we are strong.
Battle cry? Oh, no;
it’s more of a grateful sigh;
hear bird singing, beautiful,
before launching into a sky
so radiant blue, kissed
by golden sun; feel the grass
beneath your feet, the wind.
There is hope, progress.
Hold high a battered bridal bouquet,
proclaim a heart felt “Hallelujah”!
You might not know the words to say,
I will try and sing them to you”