2011 Poetry Theme Challenges

#22 A Winter Night

Hello Poets;

I have stolen the title of this theme from my example poem by Robert Burns. As we are into the run up to the various winter celebrations which focus on goodwill to all which Burns reflects so well in his poem as compassion and understanding for others and other creatures. So our theme isn’t winter or night but poems of compassion.

A Winter Night

"Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm!
How shall your houseless heads, and unfed sides.
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness defend you,
From seasons such as these?" - Shakespeare.

When biting Boreas, fell and doure,
Sharp shivers thro' the leafless bow'r;
When Phoebus gies a short-liv'd glow'r
Far south the lift,
Dim-dark'ning through the flaky show'r,
Or whirling drift:

Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,
Poor labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi' snawy wreaths up-choked,
Wild-eddying swirl,
Or thro' the mining outlet bocked,
Down headlong hurl.

List'ning, the doors an' winnocks rattle,
I thought me on the ourie cattle,
Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle
O' winter war,
And thro' the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle,
Beneath a scaur.

Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing,
That, in the merry months o' spring,
Delighted me to hear thee sing,
What comes o' thee?
Whare wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing,
An' close thy e'e?

Ev'n you on murdering errands toil'd,
Lone from your savage homes exil'd,
The blood-stain'd roost, and sheep-cote spoil'd,
My heart forgets,
While pitiless the tempest wild
Sore on you beats.

Now Phoebe, in her midnight reign,
Dark-muffl'd, view'd the dreary plain;
Still crowding thoughts, a pensive train,
Rose in my soul,
When on my ear this plaintive strain,
Slow, solemn, stole: -

"Blow, blow, ye winds, with heavier gust!
And freeze, thou bitter-biting frost!
Descend, ye chilly, smothering snows!
Not all your rage, as now united, shows
More hard unkindness, unrelenting,
Vengeful malice unrepenting,
Than heav'n-illumin'd man on brother man bestows.
See stern oppression's iron grip,
Or mad ambition's gory hand,
Sending, like blood-hounds from the slip,
Woe, want, and murder o'er a land!
Ev'n in the peaceful rural vale,
Truth, weeping, tells the mournful tale,
How pamper'd luxury, flatt'ry by her side,
The parasite empoisoning her ear,
With all the servile wretches in the rear,
Looks o'er proud property, extended wide;
And eyes the simple rustic hind,
Whose toil upholds the glitt'ring show,
A creature of another kind,
Some coarser substance unrefin'd,
Plac'd for her lordly use thus far, thus vile, below.
Where, where is love's fond, tender throe,
With lordly honour's lofty brow,
The pow'rs you proudly own?
Is there, beneath love's noble name,
Can harbour, dark the selfish aim,
To bless himself alone!
Mark maiden-innocence a prey
To love-pretending snares,
This boasted honour turns away,
Shunning soft pity's rising sway,
Regardless of the tears and unavailing pray'rs!
Perhaps, this hour, in mis'ry's squalid nest,
She strains your infant to her joyless breast,
And with a mother's fears shrinks at the rocking blast!
Oh ye! who sunk in beds of down,
Feel not a want but what yourselves create,
Think, for a moment, on his wretched fate,
Whom friends and fortune quite disown!
Ill-satisfied keen nature's clam'rous call,
Stretch'd on his straw he lays himself to sleep,
While thro' the ragged roof and chinky wall,
Chill o'er his slumbers piles the drifty heap!
Think on the dungeon's grim confine,
Where guilt and poor misfortune pine!
Guilt, erring man, relenting view!
But shall thy legal rage pursue
The wretch, already crushed low
By cruel fortune's undeserved blow?
Affliction's sons are brothers in distress,
A brother to relieve, how exquisite the bliss!"

I heard nae mair, for chanticleer
Shook off the pouthery snaw,
And hail'd the morning with a cheer -
A cottage-rousing craw.

But deep this truth impress'd my mind -
Through all his works abroad,
The heart benevolent and kind
The most resembles God.

Robert Burns
Good Luck with your Quilling!


A Winter Night

Divena Collins

One Winters Night

Ryter Roethicle

Little Old Lady
Penang Beach

Liz Rule

Reveal to Me

Peter Willowdown

Another Day
Last Rune
To You Whom I Shall Never Know

Divena Collins

One Winters Night

A liner once sailed upon the ocean wide
To America`s shores was bound
Technology grew proud were the crew
Whilst her passengers all slept sound.

This ship was the largest to be built
Designed of the very latest
Proud were the crew technology grew
They were assured it was the safest.

The journey was far the ship sped forth
A race hurriedly started
Technology grew proud were the crew
Upon that day they fatally parted.

But the outcome was thus unforeseen
Mountains of ice submerge
Proud were the crew technology grew
Until sunk by a huge ice- berg.

Passengers lost to the frozen ocean
A chosen few saved in boats
Technology grew proud were the crew
Whilst life jackets kept the dead afloat.

Lessons may be learned by tragedy,
When lives forever have gone
Proud were the crew technology grew
Whilst the heroic band still played on.

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Ryter Roethicle

The Little Old Lady

It was noon on a summers day
I was sitting in the park
Eyes half closed as I fed the birds
Listening to a Meadow Lark.
My peace, the scene was broken
I heard the lady next to me remark

"It's lonely here without him,
I still miss him after all this time".
"What right has she to disturb me,
Interrupting my thoughts sublime?"
But something held me back
I smiled and let her use her dime.

She didn't really see me as she spoke
Her white head turned to me,
Instead she looked right through me
Seeing how things used to be,
When life and love was younger
And she was married happily.

"I can still feel him you know" she said
Even after all these years
As she spoke I could see her eyes
Begin to fill with tears
It wasn't a stranger I held today
I understood her words so clear.

The pain won't ever go away
Nor would I want it to
Would I be better not remembering
All that we went through?
But without memories good or bad
what are we to do?

Should I forget how we first met
How I fell in love with him?
He looked so handsome in uniform
So strong and tall and gay.
Two boys and a girl shared our love
But they've all moved away.

If you forgot all the things that mattered
what is the point to life?
Why bother to make commitments
Take a husband or a wife?
Why struggle against adversity
And why face up to strife?"

And when she looked at me I knew
Why I was sitting here today
My life was good she said to me
Standing, suddenly made her sway
But I can't wait to meet him again
And with that she walked away.

I watched her struggling down the path
As she disappeared from view.
Suddenly I saw and stood resolved
The old lady had given me the clue
So many years of missing things
I knew what I had to do.


Penang Beach

Beside the gentle sea I sit
Feeling an easing of my wit
Normality returns a bit, I roar
How long will it be before
Chaos returns once more I wonder?
I'll not be dragged under
Casting stressors asunder, I see
I am in control of me.
The high tide laps as if answering
I may not know all things
I know when stress rings, ignore
I have been there before
I wont have any more today
I'm ignoring you, go away!

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Liz Rule

Reveal To Me

Reveal to me, my child,
Your innermost secrets,
For I have within my grasp
The power of healing.
On me wreak vengeance
For crimes long past,
Promises not kept
And deeds not done,
For I accept you, child, as you are,
Human being that you be.
I bear your burden as mine,
For it is mine,
And only long to set you free.

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Peter Willowdown

Another Day

A low rumbling fills the air, growing louder and louder. Dawn is slowly breaking, the light growing progressively stronger. elsewhere in the city dogs are barking, birds are singing - but here the dogs and birds are silent as they too listen to the approaching vehicles threading their way across the stinking landscape, a long line of almost a dozen large trucks.

The crowd of people silently watches the vehicles are immune to the stench of filth and decay that surrounds them howver. They have breathed it all their lives and although it offends them just as much as it would you or I, they do not waste time or energy upon it.

There are hundreds of people gathering now, watching the approaching vehicles. In the distance the high-rise towers of the city are beginning to appear out of the growing light but nobody has eyes for them or the many airplanes that pass overhead in their descent towards the International Airport. All attention is fixed upon the nearing line of trucks.

The crowd grows larger and larger until there are at least three hundred people gathered: people of all ages ranging from toddlers, growing children, men and women, old people, all of them dressed in rags even though they are for all that, washed and cleaned every day.

Marie has four children. as soon as she wakes up she quickly them and all of them make their way to the low mounds around the shallow valley where the other hundreds of shanty dwellers are already gathering, as they do each morning.

At last the trucks have reached their destination and stop. First one and then another slowly raises its full container into the air and dumps the tons of garbage from the city onto the sprawling expanse of rotting waste - as it did yesterday and the day before.

Suddenly the silence is broken and the hundreds of people pour down the low hills, eager to claim the choicest scraps of recyclable material. And there is food too - half digested and half rotten pieces of meat, vegetables and things thrown out into skips from the backs of restaurents.

An old man with one leg fends off a thin dog from a large bone to which some strips of meat still cling, the lips of both of them bared to reveal their teeth; a young child no older than two or three, finds a mouldering wing of chicken and crams it eagerly into her mouth, chewing quickly before someone else can steal it from her. Another child is sucking on a piece of carrot he has found. Occasionaly fights break out, usually between teenage boys, but generally most of the scavengers go about their business as peacefully as possible. They have no great energy to fight anyway but need it simply to get thru the day - as they did the day before and the day before that and will have to do for days, weeks, months and maybe years to come. Some of the people in the crowd have been living this way since THEY were childre.

At last the trucks have all dumped their stinking loads and begin to make their way back to the motorway and the city.

Marie gathers what scraps she has managed to salvage and takes them back to her hut to clean and cook for her family;s breakfast. Men and women, girls and boys are already busy, sorting rotting plastic and discarded clothes into piles according to type and value.

In the city shops and offices are beginning to open, traffic is roaring, shares are being bought and sold, millions of dollars changing hands over darkened screens lit with figures to fast to follow. - but this is another world away from the world inhabited by the scavengers - it may as well be on another planet entirely.

One man I met told me he sometimes got work four or five days a year, selling ice-cream at one of the festival holidays in the city but this year there was nothing.

On the way back to the Ashram where I am staying a young man and his wife come out of their crude hut and smile at me, the young woman proudly holding out her week old baby girl for me to see, her face radiant with joy. I extend a finger towards the child and she holds on to it fiercly.

"She is beautiful," I tell them, "and very strong!"

They have no thought of asking me for anything - they only want to show off their baby.

Only later does it occur to me I might have given them some rupees, not for themselves but as a gift for the baby. as such they might, without shame, have been able to accept it.

I wish I had thought of it at the time.


The Last Rune

When the last rune rises over the Earth
the few remaining creatures and species of the poisoned land
will fling themselves from cliffs like lemmings,
mothers will give birth to blind abominations
and on the Plain of Desolation
Babel will briefly rise again to scratch
against the belly of Heaven,
leaking tainted ozone and pus over dancing celebrants
from Breughal and Bosch chanting the ten
thousand names of Satan,
all of humanity united at last in one
crazed and debauched nation beneth the Black Sun.

But when the sun sets and not a single star is brave enough
to rise above the horizon the mad maledictions of Man will cease,
though not from peace but terror
as out of the East loud hoofbeats resound like thunder,
growing ever louder and nearer
as Death and his companions wield their scythes,
lopping off heads and collecting souls,
fire flying from dark hooves of brass, bone and lead,
brimstone curling rom cavernous nostrils,
the atmosphere torn and ruptured by cries of dolor
and pleading shrieks for mercy
but Death has at least finished all pretence of compassion
and is eager to fulfil his duty
before he too is called to account,
stripped of his foul cerements at last
upon the very Mount where Christ once spoke
and fed a multitude with bread and fish
and Urizen granted Lucifer's wish
whilst from a darkened temple in Gaza
Milton cast his furious gaze
above the burning fires and haze of Lebannon and Tyre
and saw the rape of Eternity
though when he came to write of it
he threw down his pen in dismay
and lapsed into an introspective solitude
that even Blake could but partially interprete,
walking the midnight embankment of Lambeth
in a cloud of womean-headed fleas
flanked by diseased Seraphim
whilst supine on the dome of St. Paul's
the Scarlet Woman wept and moaned
and all the ancient Daughters of Albion
tore their hair and beat their breasts
like foolish virgins that had waited too long
and on the eve of their long-awaited marriage
had quite forgotten the words of their song
and could but wretchedly sob and choke,
the youthful wells of joy long dry
and not a single droplet of moisture
left in the skies or in their hearts and loins,
nor yet a tear in their eyes,
no, not even of expelled poison or blood;
all streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans drained quite dry
and only grotesque crystals of salt
remaining as testament to the dying world's pain.

When the final rune first begins to rise upon the final horizon
both Erebus and the Fields of Elysium
will discarge their opiate sleepers
and amazed saints and sinners walk once more upon the Earth,
albeit for a little while:
Ghenghiz Khan, Hitler and Pol Pot will rub shoulders
with Moses, Caetanya and Martin Luther
but as the full constellation of the ultimate rune gains ascendence
their fragile simulacra shall wither and fade,
staggering and falling, black tongues shrivelling
between astonished teeth,
unseeing and deliquescent eyes staring from melting sockets,
trembling skeletons dancing in an increasingly wild abandonment
before they succumb a second time and surrender to chaos and disorder
and fall to the ground as a harsh and angular frost,
the fimbulwinter of all mortal vanity,
the dust of all things gone and passed,
even their names forgotten at last
by forest and mountain, valley, plain and sky.
Gone all flowers, gone all tales,
gone all enchantments and endearments
- the very breath of Life has failed
as the Rune of Dissolution sucks all forms
into its brightly glittering sigil,
a scar upon the thinly stretched tissue of existence
inflamed to a searing, nova intensity until eventually
it consumes even itself in a light so unbearable
no living eye may gaze upon it.
The last entity to see it is in fact a tiny, pale fleshed worm
that lived ten thousand aeons in a deep and lightless cavern of the earth,
evolving quickly at a rate of many millenia per second as the
layers of earth above it were stripped and burned away
until it finally grows eyes and limbs and gazes momentarilly
at the remains of all other species before it too
is caught up in the world-embracing conflagration
and is vaporised and joins the raging atoms
of all other sundered constituents of multiform life,
an end at last to years of yearning and stife
towards an unknowable goal.

If there is such a thing as an immortal soul
it might feasibly survive the rising of the final Rune
but to whom will it confide its victory
- to Lucifer? to God?
All Heavens and Hells have been evaporated,
all gods finally exhausted of belief and believers,
all angels and demons dismembered and eviscerated,
all knowledge and wisdom boiled away,
all goodness and compassion has had its day,
vanished like the importunate screaming of the Invisible,
all words finally bereft of what slender meaning thet might once have held,
not a single song or poem left,
nothing left to do or mourn.
When the final rune rises over the edge of the world on the very last day
will the Universe give a sigh of relief or celebration?
Will Time and Space at last achieve a long-delayed apotheosis
or suffer complete castration?
Oh my friends and enemies and intimate strangers
I have never known and never will know
- perhaps we will not have too long to wait to find out...
Last night I dreamed I saw the Yellow Star of Dissolution shining over my bed
and I heard the eerie music emanating from its priest-haunted halls;
it is, I know, merely the top-most sun of many
in the dreadful Constellation of the Final Rune.
Next the Emerald Star of Contradiction will rise beneath it
and then the twin carbucles of Versace and Shimmerman
and then slowly but resolutely, all nineteen terrible
Suns of the Final Rune.
It may take another million years before its full shape
and awful significance is fully revealed
but time speeds up towards the end
and all light and other energies are sucked in and bend
their trajectories towards it...
Long ago Pandora released Hope from her Box
but now it is finalled being recalled.
Do not think there will be a final reprieve for Pandora
or the least or most beautiful of butterflies.
The Rune will be revealed at last
and all living things must give up the ghost.
None will gloat, none will gasp,
when the Final Rune arises over the horizon
it will be far too late for any of that... I knew what I had to do.


To you whom I shall never know

To you whom I shall never know,
in other lands, across wide seas of space and time,
I gaze into the soul of things
and see your pleasant faces
and on the ether I seem to hear
the subtlest traces of your thoughts,
your joys and sorrows,
your fears and hollows,
your anxious sighs, your happy laughter.
Peace and blessings upon you, my friends,
may you love your children
and may your children love you,
may you watch with patience
basking lizards behind your kitchen curtains,
may you never contemplate disaster with a heavy heart
or wander in vast gulfs without
a friendly star to light yout way,
garlanding with compassion
those lost men and women wreathed in pale fire
and riddled with a thousand bullet holes
where they fell by the way...

Love and respect your neighbours and each other,
call all men and women your sisters and brothers,
cultivating honesty and simplicity,
hating only that which is hateful
and, if you have a moment to spare, remember me,
a million miles and a million years away,
your child and your father,
a figure of God's divine imagination
gazing out across an infinity
full of splendid constellations,
a friend who you will never see
though but a mere breath and heartbeat away.

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