War Poetry


Much of my poetry has been from feelings generated by the various wars that have marred recent history.

In February 2003, being threatened with a foolish war waged by George Bush, supported by UK PM Blair, a war motivated by greed for oil, the exercise of power, salted by hypocrisy, and inspired by Texan-style feuding. In recognition of these facts , I have collected them here.


Stone still in opalescent air
trees wait supportively

light splinters on new leaves.

Sun for the seventh day
blesses an English spring.

Two thousand miles and lives away
this anticyclone fires up a storm
that drowns a nightmare world
in ochre light

The peace I feel
leaning against the powerful fist
that grips the earth, cushioned with moss
back shaped, kind as an elephant,

finds its reflection in a furious world
of men who sleep walk,
fall on their mother's skin,
give screaming fire,
act and react,
but cannot take it in

while birdsong fills my head
sharp as the sunlight
sparking on those tiny points of green.

One hammer headed woodpecker,
knowing no better and no worse
fires off his rounds.

I should be suffering
but the world is folded at my side,
its front page images of death
have left off stirring
in this gentle air.

© Richard Lawson


we from our dusty streets
who in markets loud with the colour of nature's gifts
are looking with brown eyes from folds of muslin

as we go about our daily lives
to fill the leaky basket of our children's needs
so that they do not die,

salute the deadly gifts
you share with those we love
more than you understand.

© Richard Lawson
March 16 2003

September 11 2001

This footage beats the worst of Hollywood
a sudden bloom of cancerous fire
and smoke, the beating of a million black wings

Obsessively we watch the symbol of the modern dream
collapse in stark fragility, a house of cards;
the highest order falls to fiery hate

And you my sister, brandishing that scarf
'I'm here,' balancing height and heat
until you chose the sheer sharp flight

We can not see the rush of startled souls
not hear the too long groans of pain and fear
until sweet sleeping death crept over them

Ah yes! you'll be avenged! More sons
will die, more mothers scream and raise their hands
to an avenging God. We cannot stop the world.

It has to be like this. We're only human after all.
This is reality - not film. Justice and reason -
that's just a childish dream. Think what you're told to think.

© Richard Lawson 13/11/01



September garden
low white clouds
move south

late sunday afternoon
last one before the
great revenge

not knowing
when the blow will fall
or what its echoes will become

Down the dark path
that runs between
my home and work
in the dense green foliage
tired and confused

a sudden blast of colour

unfold an orange flame
around a golden core

taste of wild strawberries
burst on the eye
healing that bitter flare

peace rose

© Richard Lawson
Congresbury 24/11/01


Magnetic poem for George Bush

why when I bomb these
minute people
does love for me not grow

he asked

is a summer wind about to
consume the immense dark secret?
is there a split in my tongue?

(c) Richard Lawson
Circa 1991
Magnetic poems are made from a given assortment of words.



trapped in a waking dream
a window on the world
one square of colour
some empty story line
to wipe away our lives
mixed with a narrative
of how the west was gunned
and brought the empire to its knees,
and how from out the east
another enemy
brings an immediate fear

a charcoal bowl
warming the desert night
gold covering their skin
light-sparked brown eyes
gaze deep into the red
hungry for warmth
fingers stretched out
in blessing and receipt
hearts hot with holy rage

a desecrated land

five men talk through the night
and glance towards the stars

from the night sky
their fire cannot be seen
among the starscape of
town lights on dark side earth

the desert silence breaks:
sound of a clearing throat
dragged out; a growl; the sky
gives birth to promises
of catastrophic heat

the present fuses with
a great reality
and tissues of perception
snag on the corners of
a breaking time

the battering of bombs is felt
around all earthbound fires
the charcoal glow
is blown to flames
that spread in heart space
halfway across the earth
as history unfolds
sweet humankind your dark sad fate
the train that plunges in the lake
we are the fools who tell the tale
the idiots now who kill the world

© Richard Lawson

Caught In The Crossfire

caught in the crossfire
crouching beside your father
behind the rubbish bin
until a slug untied the fragile knot
that held you in this dusty unkind world

you soared to paradise I'm sure
but paradise is often tainted
with anger dripped from martyrs'
wounded souls

some scars don't heal

oh, we can give, and grieve
and hold each other
and hate, or block it out
or turn our minds to other things
but this is where we sit:

caught in the crossfire

(c) Richard Lawson
Congresbury 2000



"If the red slayer thinks that he kills…

Two partisans about to die
suck on dry rags
and call for water
more bullets for their store

And if the victim thinks that he is slain…

To the north
Ganesh dances carefully
swinging his dusty blue trunk
above a child.
lucky beginning

they are mistaken…

To the south
two policemen
in best community manner
casually distribute letters and pleasantries,
as if to say
"Why not turn your muzzles to your mouths
save us the time and trouble?"

for the eternal in man cannot die…"

But they have earned their choice of death
out of a lifetime's oppression
and in this film that changed into a dream
they wait out their last few minutes
bounded by unforgiving grey walls, litter
broken glass, and outside, to the north,
the elephant headed one,
to the south, the emissaries of their death.

"The spirit of Christ will never move us

Just now, they're sails becalmed, swinging, useless.
Waiting for the onslaught of noise that gives them point and purpose, turns on their power. The heart bursting of the mothers son their enemy, this strange love, rod to rod until they feel the numb red comfort of nemesis thudding into their flesh to wake them from the dream of life.

It all began a while ago,
in dusty, endemic, common callousness
played day by day, the way it always does.

…to fight and war against any man with outward weapons…"


(c) Richard Lawson
Congresbury 1999


Genoa 2001

Cubic, fist sized
the black bloc offers
concrete poems
to representatives of power

Phallic, rib cracking
the Law hacks out a harsh rejection slip
on sleeping forms
of those who fight
with dreams, not rocks or clubs

Twelve thousand years
evolved this final script,
prologue and epitaph
of primate history

(c) Richard Lawson
August 200
Published in Writers hood1



We share the night with foxes,
thieves, thoughts and milkmen.
we do not miss the day.

I've heard a blackbird
throw out a call of ecstasy
when the first blue gold of dawn
spread out an angel's wing around his form
etched in the sky above a darkened roof

and it was life that sang to light
before the heat brought cloud and noise
and news of war.

Richard Lawson


In a dream
Within a dream
Within a dream
We spent our lives

Believing in myths
A single eye
That flickered rainbow colours
Into our brains

Our savage peace
Tore at our mother's skin
The milk sucked dry
We went for blood

Within a waking dream

the crowd
above their heads
the river wind
blows galleon clouds
the same sun
shining on half the street
the same moon
staring between dark buildings

the air that lifts gulls over rooftops
lifts like a breeze on clear shores

spirit is a silver breeze
green fountain
a fire
breathing throughout

wheels scream
the crowd walks, walks faster
chased by debt
pursuing riches

conscious machines
moving on rails
bubbles of vision
sighted and blind

rush like water
behind closed eyes
run like rats
subtle and quick

within the dream
shrieking faces, pointing fingers
out in the city streets
the ceaseless clicking of the crowd

In a dream
We lived the life
Of caged beasts
Cut off and motherless

In a dream of fences
Eagles with clipped wings
Scratch at the dirt like chickens

The fence
offers succulent finger holds
But it is crowned with thorns

The fence
Spoils the view
Unless one's face
Is pressed closely against the links

The fence is strong
But there's a rhythm to it
And a good number of hands
Acting in unison
Can rock it to its roots

But the fence
Being material
Is not the obstacle

How do we rock the fences in our dreams?

(c)Richard Lawson
Congresbury 1999


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