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How might they sing, these birds caged in their gilded prisons

If released to the sweet mindlessness of this new freedom,

Tasting the openness of unsummoned adventure?

A loyal obedience glints in every glance, a flickering suppression

Of honesty fading to the truth within, a weary acceptance,  

Shackled to the land they did not choose.

Instead, exile and solitude lurk about the dark horizon,

Solemn conclave of portent-heavy clouds,

Grim warnings from Ovid and Brecht of time soon stretched

Taut with the needs of existing, the daily routine crowding in,

The tasks not attempted, the unchallenged hope forever stifling

This life to be lived, this nightmare to be undreamt.

But here and there the delicate tendrils of the dispossessed and

Unpossessing push out, tentative yet strong;

Like the buds of late winter striving towards the light

These pack a tight weft of punch, the surprise of a foetal glance,

Defending a memory of what’s left behind, seeking salvation

In their knowing escape from a gathering chaos, but loathing still

The sudden, cold release to an unbidden world,

Words dense with the rawness of sight,

Coiled in upon themselves,

Sprung with unfettered, pure aggression:

They’ll have your eye out if you get too close.


Come, Creator Spirit! This bombast balm for the soul,

This tenacious striving which wails and bemoans that fate we all see

Lurking, smirking there at the side of our stage, this cry

So unlike the dark, remembrance-draped call

De Profundis Clamavi

Here is a soul for remembrance, here is a Faustian fire-stealer,

Clattering and crashing through the life he’s been allotted!

And in these serried rows of strings and drums, horns and voices, piling

Chord upon chord, dizzying vortices of swirling energies which blaze

With a glimpse of the infinite, still the braying, primitive passions of anguish

Scream out in uncomprehending fury at the way things are.

This is a ordered clanging against demons and spirits, a defiant cry!

Here he comes, brandishing his bright-streaming creation,

Lighting the way, blasting to oblivion the stalking fears,

The unanswered hopes, the prayers, the saints.

Do the Heavens open at this brash summons?

Is there a rolling of the clouds from the East?

Only the distant striking of bells herald the sudden shock

That the world still holds sway, eternal and feminine.


A house of sun-baked, whitewashed walls,

In a leafy suburb of tree-top calls,

Sings its message from antique halls,

Strikes by friendly Roman letters,

Quicker to read than angular Greek,

The coloured tiles above closed shutters

Speak words of Latin, strange and sleek:

Parva sed apta mihi,

A proud indifference to status’ features;

Not every house can rank with Tivoli,

Nor every poet be Lucretius.

And though the right words often falter

Through endless drafts which never alter,

Forget it, next year maybe Malta.

© Copyright Paul David Holland 2017