"St. Jerome" by Hendrick van Somer‘Old School’ and Other Poetry by Allan Heller The Society January 24, 2017 Beauty, Human Rights in China, Poetry, Terrorism 3 Comments Old School I saw two women at a table in a small café Not making eye contact or talking, but in their own way Communicating, and I found myself a bit perplexed. Then realized that they had iPhones®, and were sending texts. They sipped their drinks without a word, and then they ordered more. Their thumbs were sliding, poking, slashing, as they had before. The waiter came in record time and promptly served the two. He tapped some message on his Smartphone and his work was through. I paid my tab with bills and coins. I’m not inclined to tap And even were I so inclined, I didn’t have the app. Outside I walked, my hands both free. I was the only one Who wasn’t straining at some screen against the midday sun. Pedestrians were occupied, some crossing with the light While motorists with hand-held units barely kept in sight The folks on foot, and bicyclists who clearly shared the blame Of reckless walking/driving/biking – pretty much the same. I recommend one day a year where we all go text-free. We managed fine throughout most of recorded history! I’m not anti-technology. I merely think it best To let our voices have a turn, and give our thumbs a rest. The Butcher of Beijing* Slept Fine The Butcher of Beijing slept fine On June 4, 1989. The People’s Army cleared The Square Restoring order everywhere. A hunger strike began the fray That lasted three weeks and a day. Protesters issued a demand For party leaders to disband. The swelling crowd would not abate. This was a crime against the State. No other way the Butcher saw Except invoking martial law. The Butcher was a patient man. A massacre was not the plan. Yet soon, he knew he had no choice But silence Freedom’s strident voice. That fateful morning, tanks rolled in Alongside soldiers, to begin A blunt display of brutal force To stop dissension at its source. Some tried to flee, while others fought Maintaining firmly that they ought To have a real democracy. “No way in hell,” vowed Mr. Li. “Of course, you did the proper thing,” Assured his comrade Deng Xaoping. “We have no need for guilt or shame. “Insurgents are the ones to blame.” Arrests and torture did ensure That demonstrations were no more. The people, ordered to forget Spoke not a word, and speak not yet. A silent legacy still crawls Along the ancient, august walls. The Butcher of Beijing slept fine On June 4, 1989. *Butcher of Beijing was the title given to Li Peng, the communist official who was seen as leading the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Flinch Explosions getting closer. I can hear The shattering of window panes somewhere. A tiny village, or an airport packed With weary and unwary, soon to die. A flash. A blast. The sight of twisted steel. The hapless victims of unholy war. A bomber’s belt beneath a vest he wore. They all thought that it couldn’t happen here. A single-minded maniac can steal Lifetimes in seconds. Think you are aware Of your surroundings? Fate will cast the die. Who knows the machinations of a pact Or where a hijacked airplane will impact? With jaded vigilance, our eyes look toward Some swarthy strangers, thinking Would they die To make a statement all the world would hear? The truth is it could happen anywhere. We are complacent, though, while plotters steel Themselves, awaiting one more chance to steal Our futures and our freedoms. A compact Device could fit into a cell phone, where A single button pushed unleashes war. Don’t think that it could never happen here. Technology can help us live . . . or die. I say, “Such cowards!” Then I think, would I Climb in a sepulchre of glass and steel Not knowing aught but what I see and hear Too soon to disappear? The trunk is packed With instruments of surreptitious war. Such “paths of glory” lead to we-know-where. So, does it pay to always be aware When enemies who aren’t afraid to die Reflect on heaven, as they plan for war? Delusions of a martyr’s death, to steel Their murderous resolve, their deadly pact. They praise the day that Armageddon’s here. Explosions getting closer. Can you hear The whisperings of a seditious pact? If not our lives, our peace of mind they steal. Allan Heller is a published poet, short fiction writer, and author of five non-fiction books and one flash fiction anthology. He began his literary career nearly three decades ago as a humble correspondent for local newspapers, to which he is indebted to a lifelong friend for providing the suggestion. In February, 2014 he was appointed the poet laureate of Hatboro, Pennsylvania, where he has resided for nine years. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 3 Responses John Kolyav January 24, 2017 The contemporary situation is very nicely portrayed in the first poem. People are becoming heartless by the surplus of technology. We have no time even to lift our heads up! Freedom should be achieved and terrorism should be wiped out. Both the poems are powerful! Reply G. M. H. Thompson January 24, 2017 I liked these poems quite a bit. There are no metrical flaws, which is more than you can say about most formal poetry produced nowadays. Also, there are no randomly inserted feminine endings, which is something I personally don’t tend to care for too much (it looks really sloppy to my eyes and is just extremely unaesthetic in its seeming arbitrary randomness). I especially liked the way the end-words were used in the sestina– too often, poets (especially formal poets) seem to be trapped by the idea that the end-word must be the same exact word with the same exact meaning (in a similar vein, these poets often think that you can only use the purest of pure rhymes, and that rhyming “chains” with “brain” cannot be done, or “pain” with “named”, or “slain” with “maim”, etc.). Using not the same word but the same sound leads to much more interesting poetry, as your ‘Flinch’ demonstrates. Reply Dona Fox January 25, 2017 Well written. I especially liked the first poem. I saw no proffer of hope for the future in the second two poems though, of course, they were solid, and the final poem beginning with “So does it pay to always be aware …” were my favorite lines of the offering. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.