Silently Across the Night

M.A.D ~ Philip Brent

M.A.D ~ Philip Brent

Moving silently across the night-dark earth
Fires burn ever
Fluttering banners, gold and red, to mark the dead
Ever brighter
Blood-red projected on shifting smoke
Ever hotter
An ever-changing, tattered screen, white, gray, black, overlaid scarlet
Consuming all
No animal, no insect, no blade of grass remains
For eyes to see
Glimpses of crazed conflict through wind-blown billows, through voids
Eyes of warriors
Flashes of violence, apprehended, veiled
Eyes of anguished lovers
Sudden, graphic brutality, like a video, shocking severed hand, head
Eyes of the dead
Unnecessary, yet expected
Who remains
To see, to remember?
When fortresses shine upon the hill?
Who pays the butcher’s bill?

Match long struck
Fuse grown short
Mired in muck
No last resort

Rain drives, drizzles, falls, floods the heart, the land
Stops up ears with damp, despair
Removes all sound
A soft kiss, a baby’s cry, the agony of shrapnel-sown flesh
Strobed scenes burn magnesium bright, as death’s messengers reap
Branded into memory, lightning strikes far more than twice
Smoke and thunder reign
Who can hear amidst the blasts
Who pays the final price
With cries of hope
Cries of pain, of sorrow
Never to see another tomorrow
Bullets battering flesh, a ravenous rain
Young men and women scream
Seared, ignited by fear
No voice makes a sound within such clangorous cacophony
All that might be heard
All that we know, have known, or may imagine
Silenced by
Greed and lust
To burnish the patina of dust
Peace usurped by hatred, ignorance, insanity
Leaving no witness
But fire and the banshee’s shadow
Cackling, crackling, hissing, then silent
All we comprehend
At the last

Match long struck
Fuse grown short
Mired in muck
No last resort

Who decides?
Old men in tailored suits, shined shoes
Zealots in their chosen costume uniforms
Decide when and where to fan the flames
By what right do they claim
To choose who will be the hero, the villain
Such a fire fueled by self-righteous fools
Hiding behind belief, ideology, religion, the greater good
All none but hubris
Hunger for power
No chance, no choice, no redemption
The blazes of war and more
Fed by soldiers
Fed with soldiers
Misguided saviors and precious resource
Who will never greet another dawn
Raised on propaganda, pride of place, patriotism
All isms soon riven
Full of infinite promise
Shiny as new-minted coins
So very young
Not bold, but blind
Weaned on warfare,
Boasts of battles won, bravery and braggadocio
Lured by legend, guns which were only pretend
Crumble, burned to cinders
Reduced to tar and ash
To feed the coffers of misanthropic misers
Flinty eyes weighing
Their comfort
Protected by paranoia
None but their own
Corrupting our hearth
Our homes

Exhausted, soot disguises, obscures
All not hidden by our blinders
No reminders
Thunder bolts stab our eyes, stamps them with false icons
Replace sound with whispered exhortations
Drown the voices
Of future ancestors
Our storied past
Calling into question
Children all, once young, fair or dark
Now brief sparks
Snuffed by arcanum mumbled in the darkness
Concealing reason
Murdering truth and beauty

Do we believe?
Do we dare?
Do we grieve?
Do we care?

Bombs and bullets shrieking, crashing, whistling and hissing
Each against the other, against ourselves
Seal us within our psyches
Define us, denude us
Shatter our thought and reason
All our supplications
And all our prayers
As we wait confused and alone
Together in our separation, no cessation, no consolation
We embrace
Are embraced, one final, gentle hug
By death’s
Tender caress
Felled by
Death’s violent blow
No one may know
Silently, we vanish
Kicking and screaming, as if we’d never lived
Our world taken in raging fire
Oily smoke
Terrible thunder
No further life
Our time asunder

Do we believe?
Do we dare?
Do we grieve?
Do we care?

How we have confused our story, pain and glory
Victory but a traitor
The man behind the curtain or the throne
A cheap illusion
Fostering confusion
Barefoot urchins, we place ourselves at the pinnacle of creation
Less than mere imitations
Cheap knock offs, flawed, second, third generation and beyond
Is this then how some compare
Name us gods in their despair
Tossing bright thunderbolts, lightning
Instead of balls
Such dangerous toys
For those who believe and call themselves men
Who act like little boys
Shouting in triumph
Crying in defeat
For motherland
For fatherland
Nation or tribe
Race ethnicity
Gender engendered
Violence, intolerance, hate and fear
Created ignorance
Till none remember why

Will we find salvation if only one remembers
Or is it become too late
For us, the other, all others
In propaganda vilified
Rendered alien and evil, barely alive
Though they are friends
Or nearby neighbors
They become the enemy
Our enemy
Starkly painted, black and white, shadow puppets
Tainted, no longer acquainted
Neither redemption
Nor any redeeming features
Not flesh and blood
We have been provided evidence in profusion
Not us
Not you or I
Yet secretly we know they lie
So we know we have no hope
No home or hearth
No laughter
Neither family
Nor love

What is evil?
Can we see?
Is it them?
Or you and me?

Smiling faces and open eyes
Lingering within the cloud-dreams of our youth
Now become our occulted truth
Bloody, bludgeoned by bigotry, left for dead
Our anxiety grown out of all proportion
Stoked by rumor
Fed by lies
Festering and drawing flies
Told so often
Our world is deadly and we must be afraid
Hidden power’s liturgy of repetition
Embellished with passion, emotion
A magic potion, never to forget to remember
Never to admit, under oath, duress
Vow never to accept or acknowledge
Them, the heinous other
Are like us, our sisters, brothers
Are us and only us, forever and ever
By media remade, as power panders, reinforces our angst
To them, the nebulous others, we are equally slandered
All context lost
Incomprehensible cost
Until all that remains is less than smoke and mirrors

What is evil?
Can we see?
Is it them?
Or you and me?

Will our lone historian, our lone memory last, hold true?
Remember and represent
All that we are, have been and might still become
The strength of oral history
Spoken of the past
Into the future
Not written by the winners
No written at all
Entrusted to a wise elder
Our true history, our story
Accorded only to a speaker for the dead
As everything is revealed and truth is said
So understanding and growth may accrue
Day by day
Hour by hour
Courted by eager children
Hoping to be chosen
Apprenticed to this noble task
This sacred honor
To learn our tale, adding to it
Moment by precious moment
Each moment only now
Always potentially momentous
Courting change, embracing life, love, learning
Yearning for the fiery bride, bold groom
Encouraged by the furtive glance, the chance
Chance to change, to decide, to rearrange
Our priorities, and stories
Those stories we tell ourselves
Each other
And in doing this
Alter our purpose
Our very being.

Each instant, each one for us, of us
To start a life, live a life
Or end one, hope lost, hope found
Plans, schemes, newly-conceived dreams and memes
Soft sighs, startled screams
Obvious, though perhaps not what they seem
Surprise, cold, shocking, unknown
One to greet life
One to deny death, if only one second
Each succeeds
After its own passion
Common fashion
Each might hope to survive
Or to slip and slide quietly away
Another day walking hand in hand with the reaper
Ultimate promise keeper
Being led to holy mansions
With deep dungeons
We might protest
Or laugh along to this infinite jest
Not all, but many
In high dungeon, red-faced
Stammer, stutter, hands aflutter
Lips sewn shut, they cry foul, unfair
They seek exemption
Extension, redemption
A gold star on their forehead, a pat on the crown
Eons past
As eons passed
Yet, through time and lives beyond our imagination, conception
We have repeatedly failed
Failed to learn
Spurned the truth
Explained how it could not apply to us

Do we believe?
Do we dare?
Do we grieve?
Do we care?

Our finale awaits, our final resting place
Reserved only for us
A pit, a hole, a crypt, a grave
Or never found, pieces of rent flesh, broken bone
Alone or surrounded by avarice, or by love
Some say do not falter, our fate awaits high above
In the sky, floating
Upon fluffy clouds in constant motion
Clouds which darken
Weeping until they are wrung dry
With and without all light
Black or white
The sky itself reflecting
Here and now
Why we know
And how
Still, we convince ourselves we are immortal
Only others
Face that final portal

No matter what we hope or believe
Whether or not we are shrived
No one gets out alive
No one may decline
Death’s finely engraved final invitation
Though some will not willingly choose
To exit the stage unnoticed
Neither remembered, nor remarked upon
Would reject, push aside
The hook, extended from the wings
To yank them from the boards
But launch into an improvised monologue
A grand gesture, emotive, chewing the scenery
Tightly grasping the closing curtain
To leave something, anything behind
A piece of ourselves, our outer façade
Though not our inner being
A memento mori
Express our creative impulse, our need
To create or to destroy
Our satori
Of meaning, madness
Cacophony, confusion, chaos
To be remembered by history
As long as anyone or anything may be remembered
No matter
Whether they laud us
Or slay us
As long as they do not forget us
Gloria ad perpetuam
Ours only, alone
Perpetually lonely
Prisoners within our meat shells
Such limitless restrictions
A living hell, when all opens before us
To see what we might have done, become

When my time comes upon me
Unlooked for, yet expected
When I must depart
Each return a new start, always remembering, this, too, shall pass
My body’s atoms dispersed, drifted to dust
Married to the soil, sea and sky
Never any reason to ask why
New life, new growth, hope
Each, all and everything, myriad and unnumbered
Galaxies, stars, planets, moons, comets
Nebulae, scattered dust
Like ashes
Spread upon stormy waters
Absorbed, transformed
Becoming harsh or healing
Cosmic rainfalls
Stardust, star stuff
Renewing all
No exceptions ever; not even us

Will there be time?
Will there be tine?
To unlearn what we have been told
Refuse, return the shoddy goods we have been sold
Or will we continue along our muddy track
Never looking forward, never looking back
Match long struck
Fuse grown short
Deep in muck
No last resort
Might we put away our childhood slights and injuries
Our prior incorporation, grown small, laid down tenderly
Don our new, sun-spangled visage, our new conception
Each to now help all others, without question or exception
What is evil?
Can we see?
Is it them?
Or you and me?
Shall we finally remove the scales and blinders from our eyes
Realize we need play as well as thought in order to grow wise
Admit freely, without any reservation, that we are one family
Wearing patience and humility until everyone begins to see
Do we believe?
Do we dare?
Do we grieve?
Do we care?

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