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Lawrence Hall

                      Afghanistan, Graveyard of 19-Year-Olds

                     “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.”

                             -Holmes’ first words to Watson in
                                     A Study in Scarlet, 1887

Ghosts shriek in the wind from the Hindu Kush
Falling upon the lowlands in despair
Of any reality beyond death
In the blood-sodden sands where sinks all good

Walls, monuments, souls, hopes – all blow away
In the wreckage of long-fallen empires
Their detritus trod upon by tired men
Whose graves will be the howling dust of time

And yet the empire masters will return
And leave fresh offerings of more young men:
A British Enfield, a Moghul’s lost shoe,
A cell phone silent beside the Great Khan’s skull

From The Road to Magdalena, Lawrence Hall, 2012, available via

“Afghanistan, graveyard of empires” is a common saying whose source is unknown.
Lawrence Hall

                                   Moo. Herd Immunity. Moo.

            "I don't know what herd immunity is, but when you
             add that to the people who have acquired immunity,
              it looks like it could be very close to herd immunity.”

                             -Texas Governor Greg Abbott,
        as quoted by the Washington Post via The Houston Chronicle

Moo. Herd immunity. Moo. Simple math.
Moo. Very close. Moo. Vigilant. Moo. Proactive.
Moo. Efficacy. Moo. Calculation.
Moo. Dashboards. Moo. Trackers. Moo. Asymptomatic.

Moo. 70% Moo. 80%.
Moo. Fourth surge. Moo. Waves. Moo. Gaps. Moo. Pockets.
Moo. Complications. Moo. Misunderstandings.
Moo. Factors. Moo. Threshold. Moo. Duration

Moo. Emerging. Probable. Moo. Data.
Moo. Equation. Moo. Very close. Moo. Died.

“I don’t know what herd immunity is…”

A cow flop is itself.
Lawrence Hall

                                      Our Antikythera Mechanisms

Chariots of the odds and ends of life
Wooden boxes of bronze mechanisms
By which we navigate the memories
Of all the golden islands of our youth

The hidden anchorages of lost love
And barefoot beaches of youth’s innocence
Beneath bright sunlit hills of wild must grapes
That taste of our desires in dreaming hours

All lost, alas, fallen into the sea
The sea of remembrance, eternally
A poem is itself. So is the self.
Lawrence Hall

                            On Divine Mercy Sunday

                    Above all, don’t lie to yourself.

             -Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov

On Palm Sunday a shortage of palms
On Divine Mercy a shortage of mercy
An onion, a candle, a moment, a prayer -
We’d better give something of ourselves away
A poem is itself; an onion might be more than itself.
Lawrence Hall

                               Squirrels Without End, Amen

Whenever I take my book to the front-yard oak
The squirrel stretched from the feeder to the trunk
Flees in a seed-strewn panic across the lawn
To a farther tree, free of human menace

This is a young squirrel; its predecessor
Arched from feeder to trunk in exactly the same way
But held its ground, or, rather, its rough old tree
And chittered defiance in contempt of me

By summer’s end this squirrel too will stare me down -
I wonder what Pasternak wrote about squirrels
A poem is itself; a squirrel is an attitude with fur.
Lawrence Hall

                                   A Doom of Impending Sense

When you are driving away for the daily run
Of errands, appointments, disappointments
You know you’ll enjoy the company of your MePhone –

       Which you have left upon your desk at home

You buy a magazine in the checkout line
Or find a book in some cold waiting room
Or read an editorial in the local wipe
Or remember a poem from seventh grade

You glory in words, words and images dense
And feel a doom of near, impending sense
A poem is itself.
Lawrence Hall

                                   Every Poem is a Translation

Wordsworth considered his rainbow up on high
And what he saw and felt through it, he wrote -
Translating an arc of refracted light
Into a transcendent vision of life

But his considerations through paper and ink
Are but darkness and silence without readers
Because the rainbow needs our vision, our joy
Without which there is no rainbow at all

We open the book, the page, the words, the light
To find the rainbow that he wrote to us
Perhaps every rainbow is a translation too.
Lawrence Hall

                  Send Not to Ask for What the Vulture Seeks


                         Try not to Look Like a Dead Cow

Coragyps atratus, with wings spread wide
In narrowing circles menacingly
Soars in malignance above the countryside
I think it seeks…I think it seeks…for me!
As John Donne did not say...
Lawrence Hall

                         Easter Sunday 2021, the 2nd Covid Year

In some churches the ***** thunders at dawn
Ours squeaks (it might be a bargain from Sears)
This does not change the truth, the awe, the Light
That shines upon the Altar this Easter day

Last year the Holy Mass was forbidden by law
An eleventh plague blighted land and air
And so for us there was no exodus
From the brick pits in which we found ourselves

And in the pews –

Empty spaces, empty hearts, absent friends
But there is the Promise, the Promise fulfilled
A poem is itself.
Lawrence Hall

                                    Well, Hey, Prison, Right?

                     When, with the chalice in his hands, the priest
                     came to the words ‘…receive me, O Lord, even
                     as the robber’, nearly all the convicts fell kneeling
                     to the ground with a jangling of fetters…

                           -Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead

The first-period were really bad today
But, hey, prison, right?
The second-period were really good today
And, hey, prison, right?

After class a man arrived solo for Mass
And knelt before the Altar that isn’t there
The chaplains asked him if had been to supper
“No, but I’m not going to miss Mass.”

The man would not leave for his supper
Until the chaplains promised him again
That Mass would not begin without him
And it was so
                                     And that, too, is prison
A poem is itself.
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