Days of trial

08/04/2021 by Christopher Buxton

From sunset to dawn – nurtured in the sky of hope,

under the darkening solitude of space

shouldering my earthly lot

over the glowing coals of shame;

through the grief of a hundred torments,

through exceeding smart and distances

driving the risky curves of time –

I return to you again! – Have I left it too late?


Your eyes watch me with a quiet tenderness

and your rough hands are still soft in their caress.

Am I really still darling in your eyes,

am I really not forgotten through my exile,

have I really not lost my shine?


My worrier! You ask why I’m grown so dark,

why I am slow and sour and sad today –

what casts me down and inks my soul?

Have I slept on my elbow last night,

has frost slept on my cheeks,

can the heart not stifle its cry?

Don’t ask me questions! Just keep shtum!

About the road I’ve trod, about my pitiless burden;

not everyone has motherly eyes wide open.

Don’t let folks’ petty spite

touch me with their schadenfreude!

My festering pain gains no support

from the filthy hands

of hypocrite reassurance!

Don’t break my heart!



I have many tears to weep, Mother!

Oh yesterday was an unmourned grave!

And I would have wept like an ice-storm on dry bushes

but I am not born in this world to weep,

my eyes aren’t in a wet place!


I too grew up on garlic bean soup.

And my table has lacked bread.

Was my fate cursed by an evil witch,

I was hardly born weak and sniveling?

What enemy breath seduced and sank

my filial duty in tavern stink?

Love betrayed now cast aside

and just how sad is a rainy sunset!


Who? Our enemies? What a cunning show!

They’ll soothe you with their treacherous flattery.

When you’re alone, as if they hear your sighs,

as if they grieve twice over, when you grieve.

They pretend to worry about your worries

and later they’ll twine you in their evil plots.

Today they’ll stand you a drink in the pub

and tomorrow they’ll cut you over a petticoat.

In order to stop you on your way –

they’d glue together earth to sky!

I know them! I got to know them well! –

I had drinks with them, I spoke to them

about whatever they’d put inside my head….

They poisoned my daily bread.


Life, life! On my youthful shoulders

you placed your heavy hand, last evening!

All dreams drained in pubs,

the glass – drunk, the laughter – laughed out.

Then from everything I turned cold face,

I passed by silent and outside.

I’d forgotten all I love

and I was never ever happy!

You, tell the story of these days,

of the poisoning hypocrisy,

killing faith and trust at once

with slander and duplicity…

Over my heart it lies,

the cold stone of memory.

A heavy burden weighs on me

The misery I brought under my roof!


I cared not for yesterday – alone in plain sight,

a layabout propped by the public house bar.

And do you remember?  When the nasturtiums flowered

and by the fountain, white breasted swallows

pecked out stuff for their nests,

while my family nest was left empty,

when my days were suddenly stripped.


The lustre of white roses died, early blooms –

drowned in my pent up molten tears.


Drunk I’ve staggered through the night…

And now I grieve for wasted days.

Like bullets that missed their target

they ricocheted offstage,

missing the enemy, no fight.

And who’ll give them back to me, who?


My heart now labours, falls sick

over past acknowledged guilt.

And my hair is blanched

by the first autumn frost.


Last night’s wine still bites my guts:

will it pass –  makes no odds!

It passes time…It winds me in a bandage

and takes the edge off my recent wounds.


But I know – every wound leaves a scar!

The cliff of my crumbling conscience is high.

In me there’s the meeting of two epochs,

their harsh combat echoes within me!


Again a raven-black hail-cloud hovers

a cloud presaging war

and a black shadow smothers

our sun-lit meadows.

Now we’ll fall dead, mother! –

Did you wean us for this?


Just a second faith faltered, a cause for regret.

I wrote an epitaph for the world.

I glugged belief like a drunkard,

I sobbed in the shadow of heart-wrenching fear;


Alas you people – comrades in the dream.

Alas you people – perched on tractors,

populating earth and sky,

just now looking out to space.


Lucky you, who are barren! With no darling kids.

Lucky you, with fruitless wombs!

Lucky you with unsucked tits!


Will you get my fear, my generation?

Will you get how it gives birth

To the bitterness of threat and doubt;


Isn’t man today an empty cave,

where shouted slogans echo on

the days in breakneck torrent?


Isn’t this century my step-mum?

Aren’t I this century’s step-son?

Didn’t victims repay it in blood?

Was I born too early… Or was I late?

Don’t you hear my voice? I didn’t hear yours!

…And I walked on,

and I hurt,

whatever hurt inside me – I got sick!

And I didn’t turn a renegade,

though I peeped into another’s house through the old keyhole.

I passed through fire, I returned – steel!

Even steel softens in tempering!

– I know what is grief and hurt!

– I know beating and the road!


I lost my step in the march of the multitude,

I stepped out of the ranks for a little – checking direction.

I checked by my heart, the accurate compass,

I cooled the heat in the fridge of reason:

I saw! The direction is true! The summit is there! Before us!…


Haven’t you seen how a mother seeks a ford and wades

with child in arms through a rising river?

Through the rapids of time and dark eddies,

the Party carried me just like that!…

Mummy, forgive me my previous deviations!

Forgive my desertion into needless suspicions!

Forgive me the songs of horrible sorrow!

Forgive me my slanderous utterings!

Tanned in your sun, your trainee,

I’m ranked a soldier again astride the racing days!

And how hard it is to follow on the path of war and cherished dreams!


I tightened my nerve every day, every hour.

My enormous duty answers for everything here!

I’ve tripled fears and worry on my own!


Today, humming like rails, every poem written

throwing a bridge over the ravines.

At my post my sentry-thought awakes with you!


A great, a brutal century collapses before me

and my fate remains in my lap forever.

The endless rope of awkward moments

tightens round my brain in cruel knots.

Oh, knots of stress!


Behind my forehead, born out of suspicion,

converging winds battle, fearful gusts,

tear the cliffs from irrevocable tasks,

overturn heaven in fury, thundering ominous;

storming heavy clouds, rumbling and weeping

and my temples are spaced in lightning strikes;

a seething storm, a hellish storm, boiling in the depths of soul

she makes a jangling string of my tightened nerves

and my brain is a flash fire….


The day dies every evening,

it grows through the night and my sky is born

from the chasm of conscience.

it glows over pallid greening tiles,

and it sets into the well of distant lament.

And you, my weeping eyes,

You couldn’t turn from iron, scaffolding and concrete!


Living, hunched by cares already, overloaded,

every day we burn up a little.

And some are exhausted soon, too soon.


Listen you breadmunchers!

I too am a breadmuncher worried about the price of flour

and I run for onions and cabbage and guard my place in the queue,

I too follow the lottery results.

But fearless dreams and elevating aims,

are they really found in cabbage and winning tickets?

To watch a match twice a week,

to get goosebumps if some player

kicks the ball with left or right foot here or there –

is this the summit of our yearning, our ideals?

Is this the biggest thrill of our age?

It wasn’t with this onion breath and lotto-madness,

that you, my wise, my fearless generation,

built the factories,

power stations

and huge white buildings!


…I know … only the throat doesn’t lie,

but did our armed struggle

pass through fires for this,

through blockades and traps,

was it for this through the mountains

the partisan funeral pyre,

was it for this it bore in its hands

not one wounded comrade

and is it for this on the scaffolding

today its hardened indomitable shoulder

is white from cement and lime –

to be enslaved by home-wares?

Is this our only sacred fighting aim?

The world’s become a kitchen and a bakery!

Stomach, you’re appointed their party secretary!


Damn it to hell! –

the farting fair of empty vanity! –

I didn’t enter this world

for a match and a tasty stew!

Mounted on the huge roller of the iron epoch

I come with a clatter

on the day of sharp gravel.

On my conscience the new government declares:

they’re not for me

the blessed moments, when once more

the human heart screams on days darkened by handfuls of cordite!…


I came into this world

to see the sun,

my fingers to pluck

the fruit of joy,

pouring sweetness over centuries.

My fate is a poem written

in liberated blank verse

and with you, epoch, we do not rhyme,

but the self-same rhythm is within us!


And we didn’t start fighting yesterday

and it wasn’t yesterday, in filth and frost,

my working smock faded on my back

soaked in the salt sweat of laboring days.


Don’t know if I’ll see old age,

Don’t know if stick in hand

I’ll seek out doors and pathways.

Even if I leave early – it’s OK!

It’s enough that I was born on time!

This century is my debtor now!

I paid for it in blood and sweat,

I paid its every second,

I paid it a lifetime,

And I have accounts to settle with it!

I’m written into Party directives

in each and every five year plan –

it’ll pay the interest on my dreams.

Oh what a fortune it has to pay me!


I will die with hands outstretched,

and I’ll die with open eyes.

And after my death, at dawn’s breaking

my eyes will be gazing,

they’ll be watching up till then –

and my soul will be awake,

until, taking the right course,

it finally reaches its multitudinous destiny

and passes all problems of passage.

And again I’ll beat the drum of progress,

and again I’ll lead the people’s marching step –

I, voice and conscience of the epoch!


The years will flow through the lunchtime crossroads.

And the earth will still turn on its ancient path –

the people’s dawn will glow in growing joy.

There’ll be regular express rockets to the moon.


There’ll be stars again…and dogs… they’ll be

baying at them… just as before.

This quiet day clears outside. Hit the road!

Man is a man when he’s hit the road!

Man is born, to give love to others.

Whoever spares no drop of love to even a dog,

their presence in this world is pointless.
Better instead their mother gave birth to a stone
Such as them know no pain or joy, they find no place in people’s hearts
they won’t be remembered fondly.
To hell with such as them!