Will Power

When God asked Solomon one day
    What his heart did most desire,
The man said if he had his way
    Unmatched wisdom he’d acquire.
Now some might quibble with that choice
    (I’d certainly not demur),
But what would make me most rejoice
    Is moderate will power.

Helpful it is to know what’s right,
    Yet little good does that do
When a body’s too weak to fight
    For those things it knows are true.
Ambrosial fare on Circe’s plate,
    Sirens swimming in the drink—
How can a fish not take the bait
    If it lacks the will to blink?

Choosing to do instead of watch,
    Awaken rather than sleep,
And think of health and not debauch,
    Are sage commitments to keep.
But frequently I play the fool
    At the turning of the hour—
Though I wrested much sense from school,
    I never grasped will power.

Still, surely my instincts are wise,
    For even Solomon, they say,
Despite making wisdom his prize,
    Left the path and went astray,
Like all the fools he’d left behind.
    So, what, then, is the answer?
Where is such strength, if not the mind?
    Oh, what’s the source of power?

 

Echoes of Antioch

I
Listen! Hear the echoes of Antioch
Wafting to our spirits like unseen smoke.
They pronounce the augury of a clock,
Warning us here the past is present—stoke
Those sluggish, cooling flames before a knock
Resounds against the gates, a signal stroke
Of invasion old and new. Too late then
Will it be to restrain the arms again.

II
Listen! The soldiers cheer around a lance,
A relic of a once-momentous time,
When baleful hours ceased their long advance,
And mortal visions lifted to sublime.
Antioch stood again in Heaven’s glance,
The locus of a shifting paradigm,
As it did when brave men uttered words so
Cross, Romans unearthed the fires of Pluto.

III
Listen! The waters of Daphne murmur
Prayers through liquid lips as they wind slowly
Round the great temple in the woods, where stir
Those dear to Apollo. Yet its beauty,
Oft-celebrated, is merely rumor,
Nothing but a shade of antiquity,
For the stones and statues of this resort
Crashed like the ramparts of a conquered fort.

IV
Listen to the echoes of that fabled
Place, which once stood singular and great,
But now lies buried, a city leveled
By hidden hands. Those whispers surely state
A prophetic message both new and old—
“Acknowledge the truth or suffer this fate.”
Of our dying embers, we must take stock,
Or fall like the fortress of Antioch.

 

Last Call

Sam entered the bar one night
For refuge from the dying light
And alcohol to cleanse his spite,
A hatred not for one without
But for himself—that was the lout
Sam was so concerned about.

He slumped his butt before the bar
And signaled to the liquor czar.
This barman looked most bizarre:
With face encircled by white hair,
He seemed more like a lion there
Than anything Sam could compare.

His moustache, though, was inky black,
With eyes smoldering like tarmac.
At first, Sam was taken aback,
Yet the man’s smile put him at ease,
So Sam stated, “A whiskey, please,”
Before scanning the bright tvs.

Spying himself inside the mirror,
Only made Sam more bitter—
Couldn’t he have chosen better
Than blue jeans and a striped polo,
Red then white for every row,
Like Waldo or some bourgeois schmo?

The man returned with Sam’s first drink,
Leaving with a knowing wink.
As Sam sipped, he paused to think
About all the mistakes he’s made.
But as for whom he had betrayed,
Or where from virtue he had strayed,

Sam couldn’t think of anything.
So why did Sam feel such aching
In his heart? His soul such stinging?
Somewhere he’s learned that he was bad,
His actions had made some feel sad.
When? Was it as an undergrad?

Sam drained the contents of his glass,
Feeling like a loathsome ass—
Yes, he had learned that in class.
“Comrade,” the bearded barman said,
“What’s the trouble in your head?
“Here. Drink to your health instead.”

Sam took the glass and drained it dry,
Wiping a tear from each eye.
Sam really did not mean to cry,
Yet his guilt would not stay inside,
Despite the remnants of his pride.
“Let my counsel be your guide,”

The white-maned bartender spoke.
“If you wish not to be heart-broke,
Throw off the strain of freedom’s yoke.
The fruit of your ability
Is best in service of the ˈWe,ˈ
Not to aggrandize the ˈMe.ˈ”

Sam nearly fell from off his seat,
His heart began a rapid beat—
Those altruistic words seemed sweet!
Yet, all the other patrons there
Failed to show such selfless care;
In fact, they seemed in need of prayer,
Like spirits who could go nowhere.

As Sam thought about it all,
The barman loudly said, “Last call!”
Sam, tipsy from the alcohol,
For some strange reason thought of Saul,
The king who sabotaged his reign
For reasons that were very plain
But couldn’t get them through his brain
And made the same mistakes again
Until he and his son were slain.

Sam finished, got up from his stool,
Listing like some kind of fool.
The night for him had not been cruel—
Eye-opening, in fact, like school—
For if he would submit to rule,
He wouldn’t feel like such a tool,
And lettered men might think him cool.

 

Ron L. Hodges is a long-time English teacher, having taught at Oxford Academy in Cypress, California, for the past ten years. He has also been published in Ancient Paths Literary Magazine and The Road Not Taken. He lives in Orange County, California with his wife and two sons.

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