We had introduced you to Les Bush poet in our previous to previous issue where in we had promised to bring before you his anthology in series. Continuing in that same vein we are here with his next of his beautiful poems.
This if you remember from the last article, is a series of six theme-related poems, written over a period of 32 years. These were born in, and from, adversity; fueled by a fragile and determined optimism; sustained by a faith in process. Would “redemption” be too strong a word?
PART ONE: “When The Battle Is Lost”
ON 17 APRIL, 2011, I attended a funeral, of my wife of 27 years. I knew the service; I planned it. I gave my first and only public reading of a poem I had written over 30 years ago. I did not realise it at the time; I do now. It was there, then, I experienced, again, the power and succor of poetry.
WHEN THE BATTLE IS LOST
When the battle is lost,
the troops lay dead on the field:
Surrender, there is no point
The poorly equipped battalions
of Intellect, Emotion and Strength
had been flung against the mechanised
regiments of Fate; they were not enough;
the battle had been hard, harsh, uncompromising.
Fate had launched its attacks precisely,without pity,
resisting counter attack flung at its advancing columns:
it had been slowed down, that’s all. It ground forward
the defences were too disorganised
to stop it.
There are no reinforcements,
the only option is retreat:
a desperate retreat;
as each hard earned
There is no retreat now.
There is nowhere to go now.
The defences are exhausted, disheartened;
there is nowhere to go now: Defeat!
In silence the final assault is awaited:
the final encounter with fate.
The Thinker, the Fighter, the Poet
stand huddled, there is no conversation:
the frightened eyes say it all;
the surviving troops lay on the ground
not moving: what had happened?
The war had been brutal, frightening;
but it had its own sound:
a sound that filled the empty pauses,
that gave meaning to the struggle.
Now, there was only silence,a deafening silence.
The silence! That terrible silence!
There was terror now.
Where had all the meaning gone?
What had it all been about?
Why had they fought so hard,
This was worse than the death of dreams,
worse than the scream of unborn pleasures
suffocated in their inception;
worse than the demise of schemes
born in the heart.
Oh, that silence!
That cruel, punitive silence!
We must reason with it,
said the Thinker. No! We must fight it, said the Soldier.
No! We must confront it, characterise it, said the Poet,
then our words might capture and define it
No agreement. The argument is not new.
They stand, facing each other, angry,
a divided command.
I could have done it, the Thinker says,
but you let me down.
To the Fighter: you would not listen, you attacked without planning,
without seeking knowledge of the foe.
I had access to the collective experience of humanity,
I could have provided that, you didn’t listen.
To the Poet: you were no better,
while I sought knowledge, facts and figures,
you sat writing of flowers and trees,
gods and battles: they
were of no importance!
Both of you let me down, while
I sought peace and detachment
you, the Fighter complained of feeling hungry;
you, the Poet, complained of feeling hurt and lonely.
If only you had given me the time and the opportunity,
I could have lead us to victory.
Silence; an angry silence!
You fool! The Poet replies;
all the knowledge, all the facts and figures
you could construct would not have saved us.
You knew nothing. All that you believed to have knowledge of
was that which I had given you.
I perceived it; you itemised it, robbing it of substance:
the warnings I gave you, which you chose to ignore.
The fighter stands silent, his fists clenched.
Silence, uncommunicative silence.
You are all wrong!
A shabby, uniformed figure stands, wearily approaches them
“Who are you?” They demand.
I am the Will, the motivation of you all;
until now I have followed each of you in turn.
It is only now I see how wrong I was.
I was created to lead, coordinate:
I am taking over.
The silence has a new quality;
no less deep, no less threatening:
but a distinct, qualitative difference.
The Will stands still.
The change has not gone unnoticed.
What are we to do? They ask,
We wait, he quietly replied.
It cannot touch us, said the Will.
Together we are strong enough to face it.
There is mumbled agreement.
What do we do now?
We re-organise, we start again.
we salvage our strength, our pride.
In the distance there is a bird call,
so piercingly sweet and clear
it is almost painful to listen to it.
The bird soared high into the sky,
it seemed to fly so high.
There is our symbol, our answer,
the Will said: it has freedom,
we have even a greater degree of freedom
than it does. Now is the time to grab and exercise it.
The silence is no longer threatening.
It cannot harm them.
There is a pervasive energy now,
a purpose to continue.
Slowly, they shuffle into line,
one by one they call their names:an affirmation.
Silence has no name. It has no content.
Smiles begin to cautiously appear;
they have not been defeated.
Now was the time to start gain, consolidate, construct.
The sounds of the world; the bird song,
the sounds of animals, of wind in the trees
are beautiful: an anthem.
One battle had been lost, the war had not been.
It is not a time of jubilation, but of quiet thanks.
There is still much to do. The process is still in motion.
Les Bush 1981
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