Politics and Quality
Stephen Bernard Hawkins
A liquid drips from my tongue, be it
Infant's drool or spittle of rage.
We, strangers, squat to draw again from the Lethe.
Splash of memory on receding banks as
Skin is prickled by chilling winds of change:
Steady stream of thirsty, bleeding men, wading
And drinking from the very river
That rinses their wounds; they are toppled by the current,
Crippled from bathing joints in icy brooks.
Soon fraying fibres of rope
Are yanked tight around uneven, rotting planks,
Gurgle of drowning children and sound of mothers screeching,
Men clubbing men,
Scrambling for the fragile, waiting raft.
Fill your cup and swallow your cube of salt:
It will be long
Before the great sea
Drinks you up.
Rummaging among the dead, among
Decaying driftwood and brittle sticks
Are widows, single mothers, and the weak or thoughtful men
Who will slap together
Huts from bad wood to shelter
Frightened children from the chilling winds of change.
Crouched here by the river I see them,
And lonely speak: 'Stranger, forgive me - I
Have forgotten your name.' Dipping his rag there in the ageless Lethe,
Holding it out, he offers, "Allagma." I accept and wipe
Saliva from my lip, for moist is the sign of growth;
Raging and alive are the chilling winds of change.