Men o’ War


When the imagination
grapples long
with the passive page
haul your gaze
to a broader folio.


See the windfall acorn
bounce on leaf mould
lodge in a random
copper impression
under a sour sky.

Watch the kernel
flex, then burgeon
the wary sapling’s
frost-scorched buds
survive winter’s garrotte
thrive somehow
taproot scratching
netherward, patient
through harsh adamantine
chance survivor
of the foraging roe.

Observe; over epochs
the slender switch maturing
to lusty adolescence
hardening, compacting
buttressing the green canopy.


as, still bleeding
the toppled sapwood
is sheared, planed
by the boardwright’s adze
bent, caulked into decking
marshalled into static ranks.

the carbonised remnant
the reactant
in the founder’s alchemy
casting iron
for cannon, chain
grape and ball
and the mighty
casting the petty
man and ship
into the martial masque
an ocean melée
for a hurt land.



Coiled violence
and spitting fuse
hurl roaring missiles
thundering into topside
mast and spar
twice splintered now.


Dreams of bounty
plunge, scuttled
to the deep.

Others lie beached
in death’s calm
on the lapping shore
forever banished
to a waving
Iberian kelp forest.


Back on the page
the word you seek
is ‘desolation’.


9 thoughts on “Men o’ War

  1. I really liked how well-chosen the verbs were in the first part. They gave an image of frustration that comes with not being able to tie something down within the mind or find the sliver of light that is the initial flame of an idea. It feels like a battle, that you’re trying to write poetry in one way but find that you must temper your focus to fall on your past to guide you. I also like its briefness in length compared to the rest: our prologue before you mind’s play.

    As the acorn germinates in the second part, so does your imagination blossom albeit it must battle through those harsh images: ‘frost-scorched’ and the ‘garotte’ of winter. This is a beautiful personification of a young oak nut, Julian. The fight to come out of adolescence, strong and wilful – a tree who is there to support his land.

    And it was with an impending sense of doom that I knew this part of the story was coming. You weren’t happy with what you had to write, it felt to me, from the outset. The dragging and the fighting to get to this point – was it the oak or was it you? To see this sorry sight. ‘the carbonised remnant’ is so, so right for this. It is broken down to its base component – unrecognisable. Built for war. For all the sadness with which I read the third part, I could only read in admiration your grappling of the oak’s voyage upon the ocean.
    And then, as if to strike this fury and anger further, the fourth part almost spits rage and pain – not of the war which the ship is part of but for me, the waste of it all. Of man. Of nature. Of any chance of holding onto what the sapling was – its identity.

    ‘Others lie beached
    in death’s calm
    on the lapping shore’

    Our identity. One little acorn…lost, mourned perhaps…banished from its home.

    And then that final stanza.

    Thank you for sharing this Julian. It’s so powerful. And tragic.

    Liked by 2 people

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