Crusader (iv)

featured in the poetry forum December 1, 2015  :: 0 comments

Conquest now, rather than crusade, the captains and nobles march out to subdue and colonise as much of Northern Syria as they can. Terrible slaughters at Albara and Marrat, the populations massacred, survivors sold in to slavery.
Towns garrisoned to control the region but then a fiercesome winter, food runs short, garrisons starve, cannibalism is recorded as the Soldiers of God reach a new low and still the golden city of Jerusalem, the wellspring of their faith, lies waiting, away down the southern road.

war dogs chained,
moved so far

then not at all,

at Albara and Marrat
we brought
red slaughter and slavery,

before the hunkerdown
of garrison.

In our hellscape
of that northern winter
truths told, never forgotten,
sights seen, better forgotten,

when the food ran out
Marrat began
to eat its dead.

The holy ones told us
we would know
life eternal in the gaze of God,

neglecting to mention
hell is also forever

and Jerusalem a dream,
slowly fading in the gloom.

Gods Will, Gods Will, Gods Will.

editors note:

Mr. Corrigan revisits us with another installment of his Crusader series; historical poetry about a region ravished still today. An ancient narrative, yet so timely – thanks, Mick! – mh clay

Crusader (i)

featured in the poetry forum August 30, 2015  :: 0 comments

On the last Tuesday of November, anno domini 1095, Pope Urban ii, speaking outside the French city of Clermont, called for “a holy war to rid the holy land of the vengeful forces of Islam”. He offered “a cleansing of all sin for those purified in the fire of battle” and so began the first Crusade.
The first of many.

On the march to Antioch
heat killed the horses
quicker than any lance,

chevaliers rapidly reduced
to fearsome, armoured infantry.

Our progress marked
by a steady circling
of carrion birds,
massive wings

Beneath their darkling promise we marched, always onward, to Jerusalem.

Eighteen months before;

on the dockside at Brindisi,
we stood for hours
in an unfriendly sun,
as captains, nobles,
horses, dogs,
bags, baggage
and provisions
boarded first,

their comfort
a priority.

Finally us,
the great unwashed,
God’s grim parade
in homespun and motley,
a many mouthed mob
all bad breath
and broken teeth,
checked for weight
then passed aboard.

“A light ship for a heavy sea”
the stewards shouted
heaving our possessions
“no point in complaining”
they smilingly declared,

“it’s policy”.

At Antioch;
Thatcher John,
killed his first Saracen,
with a handaxe to her head,
four more he killed within the hour
daughters all of the cloven headed woman,
skilled, he was, in the red work of slaughter.

“God’s will, God’s will” his raw throated roar.

editors note:

Here’s an old story of the West trying to cleanse the East. We never learn… (Two more in this series by Mick on his page – check’em out!) – mh clay

Crusader (ii)

August 30, 2015  :: 0 comments

Having finally broken in to Antioch and taking the city with fire and murder the Crusaders then found themselves, within a day, surrounded by a far superior Saracen force. They went, within twenty-four hours, from being besiegers to being besieged. The Saracen siege was bitter and almost led to the Crusaders capitulating but after several “holy visions” from within the Crusader army they took to the field in desperation to give battle against a force approximately four times their size.
Weak from hunger and thirst, riddled with dysentery, lacking horses to such an extent that most of the nobles fought on foot, the Crusaders managed to win a stunning victory and routed the besieging army with much slaughter and pillage of the Saracen baggage train and tents.
On finding the wives and concubines of the Saracen captains, the crusaders massacred the women with lances but proudly announced that the women had been “merely killed but not first dishonoured.”

*I am deeply indebted to the work of the academic and historian Thomas Asbridge for the amazing detail and clarity of narrative within his own work which has significantly informed my writing of these poems. Any and all mistakes, flights of fancy or poetic license taking are entirely mine.*

Thinned out by hunger, thirst, disease, desertion and death
we became one third of what we were before,
yet still we smashed a Saracen horde
on the rolling ground beneath the walls
of a city we so desired to have
that we spoke of it in terms of love.

Now lean, feral, ferocious, we were
an iron hand in a chain-mail glove,
no longer draped in homespun and motley
we wore clothing and armour, battlefield looted,
that sweaty, sweet, dead man smell
replaced with our own wolf like musk.

On finding the tents of the Saracen women
we put them all to the point of a lance,
though we did not dishonour them
‘fore death,

And Jerusalem called to us, onwards, onwards, always onwards,

God’s will, God’s will, God’s will.

Crusader (iii)

August 30, 2015  :: 0 comments

After the incredible victory at Antioch the road to Jerusalem lay wide open. With a forced march the Crusaders could have been there within a month, instead it would take more than a year, as in-fighting and power politics took over and the entire ramshackle enterprise teetered on the brink of collapse.
During this period there was a distinct shift amongst the leadership from armed pilgrimage/holy war to the acquisition of land, influence, wealth and power.
And still in the distance, just beyond their reaching hands, Jerusalem.

ours within the month,
but hobbled we were
by the bickering lords,
each mounting the other
to make himself tall
in the laughing eyes of God.

Time’s sand
stilled in the glass.

Fifteen hundred German warriors,
new crusaders
fresh off the boats,
each of them dead
within weeks of embarking
not a single one ever
even drawing a blade.

Disease, deadly as arrows,
pierced their skin,
sent them to judgement,


Thatcher John, now a man,
hollow eyed and grim of mien,
took to himself a woman disgraced,
“still she is the better of me,
not carrying sin as black as mine,”
his cold words coughed,
hawked and spat,
in to a struggling fire.

Out on the plateau
Of Jabal-as-Summaq,
Raymond Pilet and his mighty men
proffered to villagers
the Christ of love,
those who declined
were made to kneel,
then swiftly put to
the sword’s sharp edge.

Calling on the mercy of God
as useful to them as predicting the past.

And through that savage Syrian winter
a siren call from further south,
Jerusalem Holy, Jerusalem Still, Jerusalem Shining,
Gods will, Gods will, Gods will.

(for my eight year old self)

December 21, 2014  :: 0 comments

Stark trees,
starved of light,
worn as a blanket.

My little boy’s world
so down at heel,
when out of darkness
the first flakes of snow.

Winter Solstice

featured in the poetry forum December 21, 2014  :: 0 comments

The ward clock
the final
the window sees
the last light
dim and die,
on the
day of the year,
the frost,
the rime,
the land
holds sleeping secrets
of renewal and rebirth.

editors note:

Winter iced and isolated; incubator, rejuvenator. Death is a sleep-through to Spring. – mh

Whatever happened to Cain? (xiv)

August 9, 2014  :: 0 comments

I have pissed in the soup
of orthodoxy and dogma
watched human life trickle away
as liquid from a broken vessel,
incomplete and unfulfilled.
At night I sleep in whispering sand
its shifts and sighs remind me of love,
each dawn I go to seek my maker
left hand empty, knife hand full.
On the last day, they tell me,
the dead will arise, to hear their fate,
to find their place, but I will not attend,
because the day after the final day
when all is wrapped in a silence profound,
I will leave my sleep and start again.

Whatever happened to Cain? (xii)

August 9, 2014  :: 0 comments

I will drink my own thirst
with water, salted
from the deepest ocean,
palate cold,
tongue fierce
ferocious and unforgiving
like a religious life
well led.

Out on the sand plains
in that savage place
where the hammer meets the anvil
I found Lazarus,
still looking for a meaning
to his everlasting life,
he said he wanted to be
the hero of his own story
the singer of his own song
I put my hand on his shoulder,
my lips to his ear
and told him to stay the fuck away from Facebook.

Wulf Nation (xi)

featured in the poetry forum August 9, 2014  :: 0 comments

We became our own Cromwell,
learned the harshest lessons best,
our parishes hermetically sealed
with the national valve of non-return,
an island people on its knees
turned inwards from the heathen world.

We sang piety
in to each other’s face,
loved the pope and JFK,
all wavy hair and well-made teeth,
his one hand on the bible,
his other hand on his heart,
his blue eyed twinkle firmly fixed,
on Marilyn’s curvaceous breasts.

Times moves on
but doesn’t change,
Wulf remains our go-to guy
on how to fear and steal the light,
while at the gates
of the house of pain,
death takes a selfie.

editors note:

Self-absorbed, self-destroyed, selfie; trending now… – mh