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Two fantasies

by James Graham 

Posted: 17 December 2004
Word Count: 246
Summary: For my next trick, I shall detach the closing lines from one poem, tweak them slightly, and attach them seamlessly (?) to another. Nothing up my sleeve.

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Arithmetic of Silences

Let us commemorate the innocents.

One minute for each,
for though they died en masse,
let us mourn them singly.

Let us lock our doors, go out
into the parks and squares.

Let us hear the names,
such as are known.

Rahad Septi of Fallujah,
Sa'ad Sha'ban of Basra,
Ahmed Hussein of Al Amin,
Nora Tamini of Baghdad...

The mother, daughter,
grandson, brother,
nephew and four nieces
of Mrs Truong Thi Le
of My Lai village...

Arithmetic of silences:

all the old, and all the young,
day and night in the city squares,
Times Square, St Peter's Square,
the Square of Heavenly Peace,

hearing the names,
such as are known;

all the old, and all the young,
in every village everywhere,
not travelling, not working, and not
loving: waiting out

the tally of the silences.

(Original closing lines:

Silence in all the world, the animals
unnamed again, the forest raising
its seedlings in accustomed silence.)

Flowers for Everyone

Let us commemorate
the dead with flowers.

Flowers by roadsides, by broken fences,
against the corrugated walls of shanties,
petals showering over regions of mines.

Let us grow mourning-flowers in all
the fertile earth of continents,
landscapes of lilies instead of wheat.

Let us revive that old cadaver, Mars,
loam her and green her and deck her
in poppies and butterflies.

There will be silence soon.
Silence in both the worlds, Olympus Mons
and Everest unnamed again, the flowers raising
their seedlings in accustomed silence.

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Comments by other Members

roovacrag at 21:28 on 17 December 2004  Report this post
James..Take my hat off to you for this.
You have gone into the depths and recovered.

Both parts are a gem,from a stone to a diamond of life.

Well done.
xx Alice


Would like to see the third fantasy

Mac AM at 13:51 on 18 December 2004  Report this post
Arithmetic of Silences

I found this an immensely compelling poem, though I mourned the omission of Tiananmen Square to make it truly global.

I loved the locking of doors suggesting how unsafe we all feel, despite the violence.

We are used to roll calls of the dead on remembrance day, and we have the multinational unnamed soldier, but the names of those who donít matter really has a power of its own.

One small suggestion though, would the second d line read better by loosing one
So that it reads:

One minute for each

I know read aloud, it tolls like a bell, but reading it is better omitted.


Mac AM at 13:55 on 18 December 2004  Report this post
Flowers for Everyone

James another breathtakingly beautiful poem. I particularly loved the corrugated walls of shanties[/] and raising seedlings in accustomed silence.

Thank you for sharing.


James Graham at 15:49 on 18 December 2004  Report this post
'Those who don't matter' - it's an old poetic theme...Wordsworth's 'She dwelt among untrodden ways', Owen's 'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?'...'Men, gaps for filling', etc. Mac, I'm glad you found these poems worthwhile, and as you suggest I've got rid of one of the 'ones' - a sensible change, and one that didn't occur to me.


James Graham at 15:53 on 18 December 2004  Report this post
Alice, thank you again for your positive comment. I don't know about the third 'Fantasy' - it's a bit of a mess at the moment, but if it works out maybe I'll post it.


Ticonderoga at 10:57 on 19 December 2004  Report this post
Though not in Scots, I get a feel of MacDiarmid in this; something to do with the simply delineated universality, perhaps. The new second part is extremely, sharply beautiful.

Merry Humbug!


James Graham at 19:29 on 21 December 2004  Report this post
The images of Earth and Mars spinning silently, devoid of life, are maybe an echo of MacDiarmid - but oh, man! this isn't in the same league!

Any excuse will do, though. Here's a famous poem by Premier League poet Hugh MacDiarmid, with a rough translation for readers in our neighbour country south of the border.

The Bonnie Broukit Bairn

Mars is braw in crammasy,
Venus in a green silk goun,
The auld mune shak's her gowden feathers,
Their starry talk's a wheen o' blethers,
Nane for thee a thochtie sparin',
Earth, thou bonnie broukit bairn!
- But greet, an' in your tears ye'll droun
The haill clanjamfrie!

(Mars is beautiful in crimson,
Venus in a green silk gown,
The old moon ruffles her golden feathers,
Their starry talk's a lot of nonsense,
None of them sparing a thought for you,
Earth, you lovely, neglected child!
You've only to cry, and in your tears you'll drown
The whole of wretched humanity!

I certainly relate to that cosmic thing in MacDiarmid.


engldolph at 11:54 on 22 December 2004  Report this post
Hi James,
There is a strong haunting quality to the Flowers poem.
Powerful linking/building of local familiar scenes of flowers used to commemorate deaths
to bigger scenes (regions of mines)
to world encompassing
"earth of all continents, landscapes"
to the cosmic Mars (god of War?)

and then the haunting silence ..captured memorably in the idea of things being "unnamed" again..

..a slowly building crescendo and an echoing silence in which flowers grow their seedlings..

and a feel of sadness that I remember in your Burgess Shales poem about the extinction of the "knowing animals"

This one will continue to resonate I think


Ticonderoga at 14:07 on 22 December 2004  Report this post
That's the one, James! 'The hail clanjamfrie' is one of my favourite phrases - in fact, I 'borrowed' it quire recently on this very site!

Hae a gledsome Hugmannay,


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