Richard Copeland

This is Not a Sonnet

Are we really who we say we are?

Tell me your perceptions if you dare -

or maybe not would be a better thing

than face such brutal truths and slingshot


But do our eyes exactly coincide,

interpreting the meaning in a glance

to say with confidence; 'I understand,'

and penetrate the truth behind the face?

We each have mental pictures of ourselves

and of each other, but how accurate

is sight against sensation? Both can lie

with false impressions steaming up the lens

of the mind's half-closed, myopic eye.

November the Fifth

King James' knives slit the Catholic belly,

draw the living entrails, inflict agony

with ease.

Punishment thought fit enough for treason,

and this we celebrate

as if a testament to cruelty spanning centuries

might be a cause for joy. Not content to simply kill,

outrage fired a nation's soul to draw life

coil by coil,

taking pride in slow work;

the face a painted mask of retribution,

the heart a cinder, brazier bright,

the first firework, sealed

in eternal flame

and still we celebrate

as each new bomb, each bullet is cheered

after the fact and on

through the desert heat or jungle green

we follow the progress

of a nation's slow evisceration,

cheer and salute the victory

of state over common humanity.

Richard Copeland © 2008

'A Modern Prelude' was first published in

The Frogmore Papers, 2008.

All poems from Richard Copeland's

forthcoming collection This Is Not A Sonnet

(Survivors' Press, 2008)

A Modern Prelude

With apologies to T. S. Eliot

The summer evening's broken down

in curry house and alleyway.

Eleventh hour.

The thrown-out scraps of smoky days.

And so a windy downpour slaps

the sodden flaps

of empty cartons round your feet

and paper blown from burnt-out bins;

the raindrops beat

on buckled shutters, stinging skin

while, on the corner of the street

a drunkard roars at passing cars.

And then the emptying of the bars.

Richard Copeland © 2008