An arid future in a waterless world,
where all our understanding wavers
on a bridge to whiteness.

We are replicants in the land
of nothing new, and the westerlies,
hot and dry, are blowing away the children.
As they fall, we fall.

Exoskeletal clouds ripple ribs across the sky
while I rake a repetition in the sand,
scatter dream seeds in the garden.

At my stuttering keyboard,
in an accidental movement between thought
and thoughtless action I breathe
and I remember
solar horses
fleeing riderless from the sun,
the first rays of an ancient day
and my meeting with a prophet:

Take these seeds.
Dream flowers bloom
in windy dust and ashes,
they need no water.
And by the way, the world is ending.

Within the prophet, nature,
and nature without, a desolate raindrop
splashed on powdered hematite, a lonely counterpoint,
wandering words textured in silence,
lineal shades unrhymed and unruled.
My belief was hers.


For a time, I waited and I wondered.
Had the dream plants blossomed long ago?
Was the prophet no more
than déjà vu illusion?

But on the western horizon,
I can see what’s real enough—
the horses, headless, with looping nuclear fires
flaring from their necks.

They’ve come to finish
the task we humans started.

An apocalyptic global-warming relative of constructions and when will the mowing be done? I’m not worried.

the cruelty of nature (part above)

My poem when we were young will appear in Mithila Review in September. As well as the original English (or so) it will be translated into Hindi and Nepali. I’m sure they’ll do a first class job, and I’ve read and enjoyed a number of translations, for example, the works of one of my poetry heroes, Paul Celan. But I do have a concern.

As Led Zeppelin pointed out in their famous statement of the obvious: you know sometimes words have two meanings. For example, leaving aside metaphors and the fact that it isn’t actually English, lineal shades unrhymed and unruled above. Would that carry to another language? I think it’s unlikely.

46 thoughts on “prophecy

  1. I write, speak and translate into 4 languages which are my native Latvian, English, German and Russian. I’ve been working as a translator (along with all other things I do) for some 40 years now. I can tell you honestly that regardless of how much effort, skill and time is put into translation, there are complex linguistic and meaning-related aspects that cannot be translated or re-created in another language. It also sometimes depends on the meaning or multiple meanings that are associated with some certain expression or contextual cultural associations that are carried by such expression, phrase, etc. Your poetry tackles interesting verbal transitions and verbal images which are intervened with philosophical and sociopoetical contextual thoughts that on their own have meaning or sometimes become a new meaning. To exactly recreate this depth of freely flowing words that build such complex multilayer picture is a hard work. I wish you good luck with your translators!

    • Thank you for the expert explanation, I appreciate it. 💛 I wasn’t at all familiar with what a translator does, and thanks also for your kind words about my work. I must confess I’m still a bit concerned. In any case, if the translations convey the flavor of the piece I’ll be happy; after all it’s an audience I wouldn’t otherwise have. Thank you again. 😃

    • Thanks Daniel. I need to get my act together and fix up my web site so the publication links are accessible and in one place. I’m sure it will happen eventually. 🙂 Interesting you commented on the clouds. Surprisingly a lot of my writing is fantasy straight out of my head (joking, not a surprise). But when I was busy writing, I happened to walk outside and see those particular clouds. Admittedly I saw them through my end-of-the-world apocalyptic eyes, but still, not fantasy at all. Mind you, I didn’t plant anything in the garden. 😀

  2. Congratulations on the publication, Steve. Bravo.

    I enjoyed this piece much – you have every right to be (repeatedly) not a bit worried. I know I am.

    I wonder if we will still be connected enough next week to be able to write and post. Next week when the future was lost ( or some such).

    Suggests to me that there is no point saving up best work. Think I’ll post it all now.

    Adios muy amigo.

    • Thank you Frank. I really need to write more to send to publishers, haven’t been doing it lately.

      I only worry if I think about it, and I wish that was a joke. I’d advise against any long term commitments. Up to next Tuesday is probably okay. 😀

      People I respect have told me the future might already be lost. We do what we can, and everyone (including me) wants to believe that what we do for the environment is worthwhile. But believing doesn’t make it so. And I think that’s enough from me.

      In any case, let’s go with ciao and not adiós.

    • I have a couple of submissions ‘under consideration’ but they will likely be my last. I’ve come to believe that the blog is my outlet, and I take a lot more pleasure from folk finding my work there than in waiting with trepidation on the whim of an editor somewhere. Enough is enough !! until next time, of course.

    • Thanks Clarissa. I was pleased with the horses. They popped into my head in the usual way, but as usual, if I think about it, I can see why and where they came from. One source was the Brazilian legend of the headless mule, and here’s a page in Portuguese with a couple of illustrations. It’s a dreadful sexist tale that was meant to frighten women in Brazilian towns hundreds of years ago, and I wrote a little about it here.

    • Googled the images and the legend. I notice that the priest wasn’t cursed but the woman was (at least in the one I read). So hard to be a woman! But I love mythology and folklore and this is one I’d never heard about. Thanks, Steve, and BTW, prefer your poem and illustration to what’s out there! 🙂

    • That’s right, from what I’ve read in Portuguese, the story was made up to deter women from sleeping with the celibate priests, ie, they would be punished for the priests’ lustful acts by spending weekends as headless mules with fire coming from their necks. Thanks, Clarissa. 🙂

  3. I think that both the Hindi and Nepali versions would be fantastic. Urdu would be wonderful, also; there are some great Urdu poems and poets around in WordPress, I’ve noticed….

    • Interesting, due to a dramatic lack of knowledge I’ve never looked, occasionally Portuguese and Spanish and that’s it. Glad you think it’s a good idea, I’m sure the people at Mithila have selected those languages with good reason. 🙂

  4. I get lineal shades unrhymed and unruled w/o getting it. It’s almost a foreign language already. Hopefully, your publishers will be able to render a decent translation. Congratulations. It’s a beautiful apocolyptic piece. But there are seeds of hope in it. Or at least some uncertainty of impending doom. I’ve always got an eye peeled for a glimmer in the darkness, and I like that the prophet is a her – makes sense.

    • Thanks BG. 💚 I saw the prophet as someone very special, not the conventional bearded stereotype, and tried to convey that in the verse you mentioned, I’m glad it left a sort of impression.

      I hope there’s hope, I find myself looping around and coming back to world’s end pretty regularly, but I look for that glimmer like everyone else. 🌥

  5. Steve!
    again beautifully laid words.
    I am drawn to: At my stuttering keyboard,
    in an accidental movement between thought
    and thoughtless action I breathe
    and I remember”

    • I was quite happy with those lines. Although it’s fantasy overall, it’s something that happens, and I don’t think it’s just me: thoughts catch us by surprise in a momentary lull. Thank you. 💚

    • Nothing to be sorry about as far as I can see. I thought you meant the logic of not writing stuff for paying publishing markets. I’m basically just trying to keep up with the blog, and I don’t have time for both. There are various pros and cons … my goodness is that the time? It’s almost Pinot O’Clock. 😸

    • Thank you. I used to only write about places I’d visited, and I’d research them in detail as well. Anyway … one fantasy story I wrote was set in a small Brazilian town where a lot of strange stuff happened (trust me), and it included an Australian scientist. A publisher rejected it, with feedback that the scientist was unbelievable. I sold it elsewhere, but the scientist was actually based on me and my own experiences in Brazil, not fiction at all. 😜

      I’m not sure what the moral is, maybe you find your inspiration wherever you can, and be careful with real life. 😸

  6. Dream seeds in a garden…

    That sentence alone has so much power, so many hidden meanings, that I cannot quite say them all as they fight for a voice in my head. I can see how a prophet foretells of a world about to die and how dreams of the past can appear to be lies. In the end, we deny what is coming until the Future is our Present, stampeding relentlessly at us. And as the prophet said, the end comes upon the manes of fire billowing out from behind a horse made of clouds.

    Perhaps this is but one more thing that could be.

    Certainly thought-evoking. I enjoyed this post a great deal!

    • Glad you enjoyed, thank you. 💙 I try to ignore apocalyptic thoughts if I can, but they turn up pretty regularly. Humans live with models of the world, on beliefs, on dogmas and identifications, we need to belong or not belong, otherwise we think we can’t exist, and then come conflicts. As you say, whatever we think, reality catches up with us eventually.

      I’ve been wondering for a while whether forms of life could exist outside of time (humans can’t–they’re made of time). I’m tending to think not, but I need to discuss it further with the wood ducks. 🙂

    • A good thought. I’d say there are some beings that exist outside the things human called “The Time Continuum.” We just have to find out what. My first guess would be aliens.

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