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At War Within: A Book of Poetry


At War Within

A Book of Poetry

Published by J.T. Marsh at Shakespir

Copyright 2017 J.T. Marsh

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An Rising


A barely audible noise

in the night before making

way for the annals of powers.

His, not for the last

chance at a few minutes afterward,

pausing to soak

up the swirling sea of

helplessness he’s once again

found himself in. If his

only were allowed to be,

his standing

in the wind


but the tallest

mountain standing in his

world, his, his faced with,

his glory would surely come.

But not without fight, not

without pause,

an power concerned with

thine own self can’t but

fight the tides of history

having turned against it.

This is an introduction,

not for his work, but

for an new make-way

into the future. Un-

-concerned, focused

as we are with the

struggle to be, we

look to the sky in awe.

His was,

at first,

almost thankful the

massacre has played

out the way it has,

funnelling an last

chance onto the

trash heap of

history. Swept forward,

drawn back, he

dares to raise not

his voice but his

fist, first in defiance,

then in rage. It’s an

act born of instinct,

but which becomes

ordered, disciplined,

with time. Fires burn,

sirens wail, but

the most lethal

of all words

spew forth,

multiplying, as it last

brought even an slightest

amount of attention to

his blank, bland home.

But now, less than a series of

months later, attention

evaporated, far too

interested in the sickly,

silky golden glow hanging in the air.

But there’re fires

burning, columns of smoke

rising, in his mind if not,

yet, in the material, the

real, the thought, the

image taking shape in

the minds of a hundred

thousand, millions of people

all at once, by pure coincidence,

that same image, of

voices shouting and of

fists clenched. It won’t

be long now, not long

until it becomes more,

an explosion, an bright

orange lick of flame

spreading, he left,

for now, to think

on the lingering frustration,

on the mounting desperation,

a hundred thousand,

millions all cast

from the same mould.


Her majesty’s loyal

opposition, and the public

far too concerned with

overtime last night for

anyone to care any

longer. Fire,

not yet alight,

burning imaginations,

keeping the attention

of the future.

Blue flame, the way to

keep her attention,

and the blue flame’s

most cheerily

embraced the public

raising, rising anger,

simmering, not yet

ready to boil over,

not yet ready to

explode. A stopwatch

measurable, an attention

span as a tool

rather, an unpleasant

reality. Living in

an unsafe plan,

rusty springs


burnt-out insulation


still-worn clothes with

holes, loose threads, and

faded colours, in an

image surrounded by

sleekness, by the new

and the refined,

by spotless countertops

and by gleaming,


surfaces. An outage;

no more. Hers, lives,

but hers does not

live. Across a wall,

words spray-painted

in bright red, an act

of resistance, not

yet of resignation

suppressed, denied.

An simmering

anger, three or four

figures arrayed in

an haphazard fashion,

signalling what’s to come.

Violence, rage. Hers finds

herself suddenly swept

up in an revolutionary

fervour, enthusiastic;

arrayed against, in rising.

It’s not working, not

this time. Hers at the

front of a crowd, hers

marking the leading

edge of history, hers

not but changing the

way forward through the

streets. It’s all a dream, but

a nightmare. For the time,

hers is consumed, waking

to a cramped room and

a window covered in a

fine film of dust. Across

the street, the new, the

chaste stands, nearly-finished,

an empty shell, yet

still little more than an

assortment of wooden

planks and barely-dried

cement, but to be more.

An hot summer’s day,

wind tugging at a flag

flying from the top

of a tall pole. Hers is anger,

rising anger, an fiery

explosion, the hot

summer’s day inflaming

tensions, a city of

thrift shops and of

bed bugs and of

old women hunched over walkers

in the midst of change, of finding

itself taken over. It’s time.


Would there be a

few nasty photographs

and a

few unpleasant questions

but the problem would be solved!

An columns of smoke, an

fists of fury. An man who

rises; a cloudless summer’s

day, a dry heat, pools of

silver on the road ahead,

partly obscured behind

shimmering waves rising,

rising. His has tired for

too long, and his

burns hotter with

rage than any fire. Black

boots and green fatigues

stand in his path, but to

stand down; man to man,

brother to brother, they

become as one, guns

turned on those who would

wield them. A flag torn

down, trampled in the dirt,

in its place red-and-gold

banner, hastily made, the

new, the new in place of

the old, in the very same place

as the old had once been.

They arrive back at

a sacred place in the

city, the public in

for a private meeting,

guarded, but not

unexposed. As they enter

an plan comes together,

marks on the map,

arrows pointed in

elongated curves this

way and that. These

are the times; this is

the place. His is rising.

An power, sweat

mopped from a

dirty brow, hair a

matted, ragged mess.

A quick motion,

for the guard of time

standing outside the

door to go away,

leaving an silence,

but for the two

arrayed past midnight,

of them alone

in the darkened room.

Seats, seats around a

table, the sound of

thunder crashing in the

distance, laying waste to

what used to be, what

might’ve been, clearing the

way for what will surely

be. So much has

happened, yet still

much has yet to

happen. In memory,

we are as one, but

in history, we become

as many; the sun

sets on a new day,

making way for moonrise.

Fires deploy their

brigades here and there,

seizing ground, their

common front blending,

expanding, curving,

twisting itself into

shapes obscene and serene.

His reach, into a

drawn-shut cover,

to draw a handful of

computer pads, passing

one of them to another,

searching round and round,

circling overhead,

donating, dominating,

pressing, peering

into the early-morning’s

sky. His, an reach long,

too long, not long

enough, it’s a steamy

night, humid, thick

and thorny, tracks left

in the mud where once

a road had curved left into

the day. Dramatized, the

ten of seven stand tall,


arms linked, chins

held high, loose clothes

fluttering in the wind. As

the new day dawns on having

won one won, his is

strength, his is passion,

but his is not yet power.


Hers, flipped a switch

in front of her, bringing

light to where once

there’d been only

darkness. Up an

alley somewhere,

between an old,

red-brick shophouse

and a new,

glass-and-steel tower,

hers plotted, in secret.

Factories shuttered,

tools discarded,

workers made to

want, to need,

kept busy, but

their potential

never realized.

A large, red

circle with

points marked in

gold arrayed in a

concentric circle. She,

edging forward, with

brothers and sisters following

closely behind, her vision

adapting to the bright

light shining on them; she,

able to make out a man,

rifle slung low, pointed,

she advancing until

looking right down the

barrel of another’s gun. A

tense moment, an

unsettling rise. She

looks aside, the windswept

yard and a train’s whistle

silently sounding while

weeds sprout from between

cracks in the pavement, the

aged state and the

disrepair cracking into

the night’s sky. A three meter

high chain link fence

in front, behind logs sporting

splotches of moss and emitting

a foul odour. More than half of

them. No lights on

behind invisible walls,

the rusted-over gate

guarding the way forward

into a new world. The fires of

a world set alight burn

brighter still, each night

passing seeming to

entice the flames

to greater heights,

until the heavens

themselves have

been set alight. She,

she, she’s there, nodding,

looking skyward, watching

as her world has been

turned on itself,

watching, waiting

for the inevitable moment

to strike, for the tide

of history to turn

against them all. It’s

a little later, not

much later in the night,

and she finds herself

looking back on what’s been,

never looking forward,

always looking forward,

never looking back,

trapped, if only she

could realize it was so.

Amid the decaying

ruins of a world

left to fester, after

so neglected for so

long, she might be

forgiven for

thinking there ever

was a time when

it wasn’t so; but it

was always so. She

had not yet been. She

hadn’t yet ever been. An

exercise in frustration, in

agony, in being made

to chase a goal that was

never there to begin with,

all in the name of love!


As to

the lock,

his a family

steeped in tradition.

Human cages,

men, some

innocent, some

guilty, all cast

from the same mould,

all cast into the same

pit, sealed away to

draw out from

themselves an

vitality, an life

taken for another.

Crime dressed

as punishment.

Punishment denounced

as crime. In the

long tradition of the

human as cattle, his is

given a reason to be. Struck

out, a guard nods

and reaches into his

pocket, a gate moving

slightly ajar, private

pushed into public,

the open, the concealed

suddenly exposed. All

here made for

richness, for someone

else’s richness, a

grand palace built out of

the blood and sweat

and tears of the many, built

for the exclusive, for the

few. Once inside, sheer

darkness keeps calm and

quiet, quick marches and

soon arrivals at a wall

hidden, marked but

with the scrawling of

nails against a hard surface.

Underneath layers, the

multitudes close out,

a door behind him, an

guide turns on a small

red-light lamp, illuminating

in an sickly, deep glow.

Along each side,

were a row of cots,

enough for them all,

netting suspended from

the ceiling’s frame. Each

of them begin to

strip their packs,

place them firmly in

the netting above beds.

This is freedom?

This is strength?

This is passion?

In the world

at large, the fires

burn, raging unattended,

taking on a life of their own,

surging, glowing,

attacking, conquering

all in their path. But this,

this is our lot,

this, is our lot,

his as one with all

around, his suddenly

snapping upright in

bed, awake, immersed

in darkness and silence.

As to the

family tradition,

he looks out through

his window onto the street

below and urges himself

to join, to fight, to attack

and to kill. But his, a

strange nothing feels

empty against the death

and life wrought around

the globe, mountains,

tall, ragged mountains,

jagged peaks covered in a

thick layer of snow, party

concealed behind

a slow-moving bank of

clouds. Human cages,

cages filled, cages

once filled left with

no other reason to be.

As when walls

crumble and the

spirit is set free,

all will be forgiven,

all will be made whole,

all will begin anew. But

resist, we will overcome,

victory as ours,

inevitable, but

never assured.


pledges himself,

standing over the ruins

of the old, to the

new, and turns away.


She pointing at

something unseen in

the distance, at

a mark of shadows and

dust held together

loosely by the collective

memory of those who

dare to fight back. An

act of courage, you see,

to attack and destroy, to

liberate ours, theirs, from

the yoke of freedom. War

is peace. Freedom is

slavery. Ignorance is strength.

She, the left marker on the map.

An explosion, an

sound of fury and thunder,

of mashing and of

mud grinding, sliding,

into a slurry of

hatred and recrimination.

Score another hit, rocking

the floor back and forth. She

fights to keep them on course

through the

way to

the future,

their future,

shared, wanted,

but not unexpected nor

at all unwelcome. An

explosion, an more rounds

cratering the earth

beneath their feet,

bodies tossed into the

air, made to shred in the

jaws of the original

document, not for

much longer his

hold on reality

shaken to its very core.

Flying backwards, her face

completely melted away,

on turning over her

face brand new,


intact. This, then,

is the moment we’ve

all been waiting for, the

moment when it’ll all

come to be. An factory

sits, unoccupied, now occupied,

a fire lit, people dancing,

arms waving in the air,

rapidly becoming a tangled mess of

metal and wiring. She pressing

hard to one side, then to

the other, veering up and

away from nothing but

her path forward. A row of lights

on either side of a rain-slick

road. A violent wind

snapping tree branches like

toothpicks. The crashing of

waves against the shore.

Making waves, in

union, an state of being

becomes something

other than

what it is. In the

middle of the day, a

massive tsunami crests,

towering over the shore,

blotting out the sun,

threatening to destroy

all we hold dear.

More rounds of

thunder crashed into

a hardened wall,

the wall crumbling to dust.

Explosions all around, another volley

lobbed her way, insults

slicing several small

cuts on her skin.

Over a hundred innocents

die each day

in this grand accommodation

made out of whole cloth,

through the small holes

ripped in

the tough vessel’s armour.

Hers, couldn’t stop so easily,

an vessel had been so hastily

outfitted to carry human beings

as cargo instead of freight, an

instead focused on the

steel rain still falling.

Her last engine,

number two,

fails of its own volition

as such things

have the


to do. Night

falls. Hers is won, for now.


His is an loaded

for his last freight mission,

containing all the

equipment necessary

to transmit false readings

and to entice the

powers that be to

an fraudulent ideal.

Back to basics.

His, stood in place

looking over


sort of home for him,

now nothing more than a

tool, an object to be

manipulated according to

his own need. Columns

of smoke in the distance

blend into the late-evening’s

sky, forces

of evil find themselves

kept at bay, driven off,

rushed into pitching a

repeal, an rapprochement

between warring powers,

an cataclysmic inferno

consuming all and sparing

none. The old factories

littering the landscape,

decrepit, decayed,

lie darkened, but not forlorn.

Evil sprang forth,

an thing unencumbered,

black, wholly black,

yet wholly white,

the last fist raised later

in the summer, flowers

blooming, trees rustling

gently in the breeze.

Building, building to

an explosive climax,

the revolutionary

fervour dead, making

way for its own demise.

He’s grown quite

attached to the old way,

and as he runs his hand

over the smoothness,

the bare metal skin,

he doesn’t help but

feel almost jealous

of what may come.

He walks the street

that soon someone else

would be giving his

a different look, twisting

beyond his recognition,

obscene, grotesque,

yet bargained-for, serene

and not altogether

out of place. Someone

else would be flying her,

touching her in a way that only he’d

been able to for what felt

like years. He knows by

pure instinct which

buttons to push, which

levers to pull, to


like a lover knew how to

read his woman’s psyche

without even opening his

eyes. In silence, surrender.

The two towers, one each

on the dorsal

and ventral sides

begin collapsing

into one another. A

pile of rubble

formed by the

two falling

into a common point

between them,

through. It was an

revolutionary cataclysm

that’d reached its apex, suddenly


without warning

immersing them in

an firestorm that’d

burned through

them all along. The

bird, a frigate, continued to

pour fire onto them,

quickly wrecking theirs.

The remaining life

adjusts its course,

shooting straight up

in a bright red line

set against a sun setting

from above and behind,

out of the fields of

golden-brown wheat

waving in the wind.

Avionics, mnemonics.

His life, lived below the surface,

exposed to the light

begins anew, a new

man where once the

old had lived.

Daylight shines in through

wide open doors, reaching

past the point of no return.

He shouts as he spots

two enemy soldiers

enter through the haze at the

far side of the room. He

fells them with a

bolt of lightning and a

crack of thunder, but

four more come to

take their place. The

sky darkens, then clears,

then darkens again,

storm clouds blue and red


a pure, ivory white; the

soldiers knock each other

down in their haste. An

gold colour enters from both

sides now and the flow

of different rivers

feed into one,

expanding, contracting, rhythmically.

And his remaining

people put back into

the cattle car, two of

them standing

outside the last open

door as it closes;

he wants to stay behind

for them, but knows it

futile to do so. In a

surge of adrenaline, errant blasts

catch a half-dozen

and fell

them dead in their

tracks away

from his outstretched

arms. This is the last moment,

past the point

of no return,

all hurtling towards

something that

was no longer there.


An Intemperate Way



looks first at

one wall, then another,

in a cramped room

waiting out

the night. She

looks ahead to the

next open door and

rises, missing wildly

and striking a new

path forward into her

future. Earlier, much

earlier in the evening,

an explosion she’d seen

from across the city

had made her taste the

metallic taste of

blood and adrenaline


through her mouth;


had led to this moment,

her work, disciplined,

her strength, refined,

her morals, chaste and pure.

An explosion, not of

fire and earth but

history, of a path

discontinuous, winding,

elongated, disjointed,

of a path

convoluted but which

could’ve led nowhere but

into the early evening


She’s taken

control, the world

burning all around,

the others skimming low

over the horizon

as she looks for the

right moment to strike

again. It’s time.

Feverishly, the

masses yearn for

the freedom and the

satiation of having won through

their own. Out of her

cramped room, she

tries to pull up. With

heat rising from the

ground they speed right

for the narrowing gap

between two

stages of their history.

On fire, the

two stand and converge

through her field

of view, let

through without

a second thought. Flying

through them at the,

speed of a fight,





on a corner


causing just enough damage

to collapse it. History, already

burning at its base from

a fight to the finish,

folded over onto its side,

crashing down onto the

nearly deserted street. A

massive plume of

dust upwards,

debris scattering,

splinters on the

opposite side of the

street. That’s not all; she’s

resolutely working as her

foes fled the scene. What!

Cruising along at an

altitude of around a




she spots the way. On

the late summer morning,

the rising sun shimmers

with such brilliance

that she has to raise

her hand to shield her

eyes. Flying through the

air above a freeway, she

deigns to look down

and survey

her world as it was

just as she

hurtles off the cliff

of the known, into the

abyss. With crowds

below chanting and singing songs,

the past had, crumbled. Half

the buildings clustered

are boarded up, while

a darkness had set behind

for workers’

quarters arranged around

still operating factories.

Smokestacks spew an

obscene bluish haze into the

sky. A few of these small

industries bore throngs of

people, masses swaying

this way and that in

time to an anthem no

one was playing;

forming right at that point

and flowing slowly into each

other, crowds blend, mixing,

a kaleidoscope of other colours

all becoming one

in this, historic moment. Hers,

a heady day, disciplined,

methodical, but

not without its

moments of spontaneity.

In such a moment,

whether of spontaneity

or weakness, she allows

herself a smile, an impish grin

for all the future may hold.

But the future

is never guaranteed, not

when the stakes are

so high; the future

must be

won. Her grin fades as she

commits to a path through history

to the pre-designated

end, her resolve to

move on to the










voice at the other

end. The ground

rumbles like a

rolling thunder, the

skies clear as day. He

mops the sweat

from his brow


calmly puts one

foot in front of

the other, pulling himself

through the heat.


spew a whitish smoke.

Squat structures cluster

around like peasant shacks

near the end of a small

road, the old not

yet cleared out to make way

for the new. He gives

the order, in an instant

stout, square, monolithic

blocks appearing in place, filled

with those very people,

with those very peasants. It’s

a late-winter’s morning, and a

light dusting of snow still

covers the ground. As the

day gets underway and

the peasants put themselves

through the motions, he

watches them leave their

drab, concrete homes,

be it life or death

in the cause he’s

chosen for them all. He

watches, but not too closely.

Putting on an act, some are.

But he’s satisfied, so long

as they’re trying to

put an act on. He’s taken

to notifying each and

every one of them

of their apparent deaths. He

takes no joy in this solemn duty,

grieving relentlessly for them,

silently. They’re to be told that he’s

missing, not dead,

here, not there,

by the overworked

and the


to be held in high esteem. He

considers, for a moment,

the notion of leaving his

self-imposed, yet

involuntary isolation. As

much as he’s tried to

put it behind him, a

mild guilt gnaws at him

whenever he looks

on those whom he serves,



people, his own fate. A

late-winter’s snow yields to

an early-spring’s thaw,

the season’s changes

achieving some measure

of personal vindication. If

they knew what he knew,

they’d understand.

It’s almost time.

Turning away, he looks to the

future on time, an future they’d

see through to its end, the darkness

setting in and lingering in the night’s

sky for a moment or two longer

than usual before the first pinpricks of

light flickered on, soon after the

evening lying under a brilliant

array of constellations. Still.


Despite the new

emerging from the old,

a crashing sound

echoes through the void,

doubling back to sound out again.

Every now and then

stray bolts strike across

the skies, illuminating the

still-burning carnage in an

alien, unreal glow.

Forward, piles of

rubble offer a shelter. Far

from the gates of hell,


form a

neat three column line,

but within an arm’s

length the scene

degenerates into a scared and

confused mass of humanity.


She strides into

battle, and as she

approaches the chain

link fence caging in

her last, best chance at freedom

she looks into the future

but can’t help herself from

thinking into the past. As

the skies darken and

as the grass burns, turns a

dead, decayed brown, she

pushes ahead,

overtaking the rising

tides of history, in a

flash of blue light descending

onto an changing, brightening,

never changing spot on the horizon,

growing larger and larger still by the

second. Her mouth waters

and her hands tremble in

anticipation of

what’s to come, what’s

already here, and she sprints

towards it as

fast as she can..

A third of the stars

fall from the sky, then

a third more, then a

third more, leaving the sky

pitch black, but only for a moment,

a gigantic fireball

erupting, its burgeoning

whiteness like hands above a head,

the stars suddenly illuminating

again, surging,

a piece of mangled metal skidding to a

halt just inches from her face,

snapping her

back into focus,

spurring her on anew.

There’s fire in the distance, the

off-and-on cracking of

thunder broken up by

the constant wailing of thousands

of voices crying out all at once.

Terror, a blinding

white terror seizes

the terrible sounds of

battle, the white terror aiming

against everything she’s






Sons without daughters,

mothers without sons,

all left with one

last moment of terror

before being made to

embrace death. It’s

not right, but then

at the gates of hell,

the sound of

hounds braying grew

makes it all see. To

her horror, she sees masses

of innocents trying

at their last hope, their

last salvation, her

enemies the same as

their enemies, locking,

an climactic mayhem

emerging where she’d foreseen

only a moon shining brightly

down through a

clear night. Suddenly,

she’s somewhere else,

somewhere peaceful

and somewhere serene.




roof, she

gazes at the

stars. Such a simple joy,

stargazing, the galaxy

on display in a river of

light arching

lazily across the sky.

In the highest esteem, she

holds the idols of men,

but compared to

the brightness, the brilliance

of the night’s sky she

can’t help but put a

silence to the right words.

A lit cigarette, a

half-filled bottle of

whiskey left out

for too long, flies

circling around the

mouth, the lingering

smell of decaying flesh

rising from the


below. Very,

her face bears

a mark or two, a dried

splotch of blood.


He’s terrified, his a rueful

terror, slick, sane, but

spinning for the last time. He

stays the course, with not

slightest thought towards

surrender. Loss of love,

all are made equal in the

loss of love. With theirs

about to overpower its enemies,

he looks to their final victory.


Says she,

to the crowd

assembled round the

bend. An catastrophic

burst, then another, then

another, she

calling out to

the skies above. An thunder

cascading over them. An

flash of lightning immerses

the crowd in a

pale, white light, disappearing

all. She’s there, yet

not there, suddenly

everywhere, all at once,

bursts of fire and ice

cracking the ground open,

darkness emerging,

seeping into the sky,

thick tendrils wafting upwards,

in the fight, her purpose fulfilled. With

great haste she raises her

hands, turns to face the strengthening

storm, and draws her own strength

from the crowds. It’s almost time.

It’s never time. An

burst of flame

races along every street


suffocates every

man and woman and child

all at once, breaths

left gasping, arms left

grasping, voices left

crying for mercy, the enemy’s

sudden counterattack

seeming everywhere,

occupying every parcel

of land and every box of

air. She stands tall, she

rallies the spirits of men,

flexing every muscle, shouting

every obscenity in an

supreme defiance against


who would take

from her, from them

what they’d worked so hard,

shed so many tears to

win. There’s, theirs, a

thunderous volley,

lobbed through the air,

little traces of shadows and dust

arching, meeting the

enemy blow for blow,

stride for stride, the

carnage unmatched in its

ferocity, sparing no one.

Of the hopeless situation she

found her people in. Pushed

back to the last line

of defense, she must

hold them here, even as

she strikes out at the

heart of the enemy’s

essence she must consider

the failure of her own self in

winning that decisive

blow. It’s later, now, and

the thunder of battle has

dulled to a pattering, not

unlike a light rain falling in

the distance. She

walks along the

empty street, along the

burnt-out shops

and the

carcases strewn across the

pavement like

so much

useless confetti. She

spares a thought, only

one, for each she sees.

It’s as though

time has slowed, but

not stopped, all around her

moving just fast enough to be

perceptible, like statues

she might suspect

were secretly animated, but

only whenever

she wasn’t

looking. Her

clothes, unwashed for more than

two weeks, torn at several

places, rips running up and

down each leg, a pair of

slashes on her abdomen,

her right sleeve nearly

disconnected from the

torso. Completely

gone were the last

vestiges of politeness,

of the chastity and of the

purity once thought to

be so hers in abundance; but

this, she does not concern

of. This, this is

real, she knows. Beneath

the caked on mud, and

a mixture of fresh

and stale blood, she is

vaguely aware

that there lies a

human face attached

to the front of her head.

A booming silence

brings her out of

her temporary detachment

from reality with a jolt,

the sirens wailing again,

calling her back into

her hiding space, her hiding

as the thousands

huddle beneath the

rubble of their homes.

Another strike, another

counter-strike, the two

locked in mortal combat

like a pair of

dancers dancing to an

imagined waltz. A

swig from her bottle

does little to dull the

pain. The ground shakes,

and still she steadies

herself, steels herself to

steering history towards its own inevitability.



that he had always

subconsciously thought that

he would live forever. Trying

to imagine his own

death, or worse,

hers death, was

an unthinkable, an impossible,

a streak of fear

curls around his insides.

They kiss a kiss that

lingers on their

lips long after

they part. They

kiss like lovers,

like a journey’s

not yet incomplete. In

the darkness, in the dim,

the dust has stopped flying

and the flames have burnt out.

Cross, crass,

their feelings, his

feelings are like a

dead bird, a bird, dead,

only playing dead,

suddenly immersing

him in a silky, golden glow,

transported somewhere

far away from where they were,

a field, an vast, expanse of

lush greenery with

crystalline waterfalls in the

distance. There’s pain, but

it’s tolerable, tugging at his

legs as he runs, matching himself

stride for stride,

leap for leap,

gasp for gasp, the

sound of his own heart pounding

against his chest drowning out

his fears, the dull,

metallic taste of

blood flooding his mouth;

but he’s home, now, he’s

where he’s always wanted to be.

Rolling through the fields

in the most fantastical of

voyages, his legs give way

and he falls to his knees,

slumped over, breathless,

exhausted, yet fulfilled. He

looks to the sky, arms

outstretched like a prophet

about to receive his gospel,

but there’s only a silence, a



by the soft,

ethereal sound of

angels descending from on high.

Suddenly, he’s

reinvigorated, again,

this time finding himself

immersed in a sea of pleasure,

esoteric, yet sublime.

This is what

he’s been seeking

all his life. This is what

he’s been craving since the

day he took his first breath, an

spiritual release, an bliss

that came from a place

deep inside him, from

some place ill-defined, yet

real. He leaves his

body, floating skyward,

then looking down upon

himself, seeing a face, a

satisfied, satiated smile

thinly spreading. It’s

a moment of peace set amid the

carnage and the

horror of the real. But

it’s not enough, it’s never

enough; he opens his eyes.

In the darkness of the night,

there’s the sound of buildings

crumbling all around

him, the sight of debris

piled high, in the streets

few walls still

stand, massive

holes blasted through

them, a lonely remaining

lamppost the only

indication that a once

proud city still stands

there. Smoke pours

out of holes

dotted seemingly

at random in the

street, the

stench of human flesh


yet real.

A delicate

coat of yellowish

dust covers every

exposed surface,

caking onto men both

alive and dead, the

living bearing an

surreal appearance of


At just a glance, he’s

scattered limbs into the

wind, this, the lifeless

traveller, the children starving,

a stench of raw flesh, singed by the

surging of the liquid-ionized tides.

White teeth, yellowed,

blue veins and a summer’s rains.

A black sun, and a bright,

white night, reaching

out defiantly and

managing to keep

his grip on


just barely.


Then the


attack resumes. It’s

all an elaborate game,

a dance, a charade, but

she indulges, pushing forward,

lashing out, striking,

each blow calculated,

deliberate, defined, the

last night’s attack having only

hardened her resolve. As

she calls on the tides to

rise against, in perfect

unison the thousands, the

millions of voices rising

into an cataclysmic

peak, thunder, lightning,

a crashing of waves against

the shore and the slamming

of doors shut a hundred

thousand times over. It’s

not time, yet, but it’s

always been time, the road

cluttered with debris, a third

of the stars in the sky falling

to Earth, then a third more rising

again, the night’s sky brightening,

brightened by the flames

licking skyward, by the flames

of their shared history set alight.

Of someone else’s

mother, someone else’s

son, someone’s uncle and

someone’s brother; so that they

might instead suffer

for want of a better tomorrow.

Her person, her soul, her

being, wilfully taking

such a terrible

burden to relieve

another soul of it. She’s frightened.

Her hands tremble, her

voice is hoarse and dry. But

hers is yet time. She looks ahead,

imagining a future’s abundance,

but for the present, never to

give up the fight. It’s

her joy, her fulfillment

that her fellow man could be as

would be asked of them,

living through the darkest of nights.


A Last Strike


His is

wanting to be,

left to wander the

darkened streets, rallying

the dust and the dander. Never

has he thought

so of fleeing, the

impulse strong, tugging

at him, insecurity, obsessiveness,

the trying harder than the

slide. He knows

better; he knows truer.

His is to overcome the

self, to be better than he

is, even as fear

turns his insides

into a twisted mass

of steel and death.

He turns into the wind

and faces the dawning of a new day.


She but

knows better than


make her way to the

escape pods, but

a casual conversation and a

longer yard laying

themselves out before her

like twin barrels of a gun.

The worst has passed.

A future’s brightness

locks, for way down from

the last time, deliberately

striding into the night’s sky.

All that remain of

her and her crew

from the

beginning are

a handful of veterans

grizzled beyond their years. It’s

time to look ahead, to

rebuild anew, to put back

up the walls so eagerly,

so gleefully torn down in

an revolutionary anger. There’s the

door and the concierge. Hers, a

modesty, a plainness that never

calls attention to itself, that

seeks satisfaction in its

simplicity. Hers, the same as

all others, hers

resisting the altogether

human urge to take


isn’t hers.



mounting anticipation

at the

thought of seeds

bearing fruit, of her labour

feeling its anxiety consuming

her like a wolf gently

gnawing at her innards.

This, this is seeking its

final affair, its climactic conclusion, the

confidence in leadership

not yet undermined. Still

the last strike reveals

itself slowly, forming as

lines on the map slashed with

arrows red and the super six

who’d made it past the

simple yet gruelling

task of fighting for the future’s end. They’re

here, and they’re not here,


massacred comrades’ cries for

vengeance not yet sated,

even with their victory now

assured but not yet won out.

An anticipation

builds, false, yet authentic

in its falsity, the halls

around her dark as she

walks from one airless room to

another. These are as

catacombs, repurposed


bunkers so deep, so strong,

their oldness concealing an

strength lacking in

the new, the state-of-the-art,

on arrival her nerves calming,

her insistence turning against

resistance, the joy of

war replaced by

the need


a new peace. It’s

crazy, it’s deranged, but for all the

rotting algae with a faint

tinge of seawater it seeming so

real. Look, the reason they’re

all so eager to get away is they

agree with her; she’s

convinced herself of this. Thunder,

thunder, thunder, the booming of

a thousand guns opening all at once,

their targets unseen, but real,

all war reduced,


to the act of pressing a button. It’s

not yet time. She craves the

taste of another’s blood; she

recalls using

the streets to survive, weren’t

anywhere to be found. She’d

wasted a lot of good years, only

just now thinking, at last, of what

her future means. She resolves

to win anew. She’s always resolved to

win anew. With final victory

in sight, she forces a scowl and

steels herself for what must come.


A sudden disaster

strikes, leaving what she’s

worked so hard to build

a shambles. It’s an

explosion, then another,

as if the very same

space could’ve contained

but the need, the desire

for so much more. Three,

sixteen, four-hundred

volleys land within a little

patch of land; she’s struck,

injured, a broken bone and some

spilled blood. But then, just as

quickly, she’s uninjured,

as though she’s gained

the ability to heal herself

by sheer force of will

alone. There’re no

parts in her direction;

it’s all an desperate

situation, an electricity surging,

ripping through the air, like a bridge

set alight by a half-rated

a portrait of our

triple-cover hopelessness,

all back here, the high-beamed

research lacking. She stands tall,

facing the day. Her enemies

multiply, our enemies, the

enemies of all our futures

fighting so hard, so long,

in the inevitability of their

defeat their resistance finding a

a meaning. But

theirs is not resistance; theirs

is the essence of their selves. They

must fight against her, against us. It’s

what they do. They are jackals, they are

hounds of hell, and

she knows they will be

destroyed in the fight for

a new future, in the war to move our

history from one page to the next.

An decisive battle

has not yet been reached; she

plans, she plots, she calculates

every move with the skill of a

chessmaster toying with an

rookie. Out of the green zone,

she radios through the crackle,

through the rattle and the confidence,

inspiring in those all around her

a new closing chapter to the

death of another age. In love,

where once there’d been in love,

now she, like a quiet popping,

seeks only to wage peace on war

itself. She draws in a deep breath,

holding it for a moment, for

one, two, three, then lets it all

out. She gives the order to

finish it all. She commands the

dawning of a new day.


An apex,

once reached,

joined him. He thinks

of himself as in control; it’s a

fraud. He is but a passenger,

leaping out from the line, arching

towards the enemy. His

fear is palpable. Apologies,

he’s shifted completely from

the person he was, now, the

person he is

revelling in the glory of

devotion to

another’s. Engineers, suppliers,

components, under pressure from

him in a

cascade of steel and

high-strength panic, in

accordance with the whims of the

blowing winds. We’re here, but not here,

nowhere in between,

stuck between nothing and all,

infinitely far from either. A

bang, a crash, the snapping shut of

the jaws of mercy, serrated blades

cutting, shredding flesh

from bone. The sight of

a flyover, of four little dots

in a diamond formation trailing smoke,

the sight sends a shiver running the

length of his spine. He screams.

He shouts. His voice is hoarse. There’s

a thousand people all around, all

shouting, all screaming the same

anger, the same hatred, but for the

need of another

looking to the skies in

an mounting anticipation of

what must surely come, of what’s

been promised to them a hundred

thousand times over. He

swallows, his mouth dry, his

throat in pain. He spits out

blood, savouring the taste for

a moment, savouring the same

same taste so savoured by

many, many others, a taste for

the common need of an vengeance.

He’s so far removed from the

person he’d been; he’s

courageous, he’s daring,

he’s capable of things he’d

once dreamed of doing, but through it

all he’s become afraid of himself.



the climax, but still

at war, she struggles with

the need to turn from

an involved scrutiny to an

dispassionate and according

renewal. It’s dark now, too dark,

the moon’s light hidden behind the

falling of a late-summer’s rain. Baby

food in the barbeque. Working hard

and rounding them all up,

there’s not much left in the notice

taped to the far wall, in black and

white boldly proclaiming an illicit

affair, an divorced disaster leaving nothing but

another variant of an already

experienced disaster. Reconnaissance, not

renaissance, in the agonizing mess

of another step forward her

electronic warfare seeming an impossible

weapon capable

of destroying everything she’s

worked so hard for so long to build. They

can never care about what might come,

only about what’s been, the first, last, only

thought for their riches, their

fanatical devotion to the hoarding of

wealth their downfall. Designed as a lifeboat

carrier, a dedicated tanker she needs for

wherever, whenever the next battle might

call for her. It’s time. All

subsequent options look specialized in

comparison to one another, the conversion

from one model to the next seeming

designed from the outset to carry a

fusion of past and present. The

sun shines, its warmth, its burning

heat threatening an advisory opinion,

but she discards this in favour of

her own instinct commanding her to

look halfway back to the

starting point far back in the distance like a

light back at the entrance to a tunnel

already entered. Some mountains

rise more prominently than others,

six planes coming in

from the north, growing larger and

larger still by the second, passing overhead,

contrary to the rules of mutual

respect. She desires this; she needs this.

Different forms, different systems,

but not at all hidden. Her feet are

calloused, and her strategies are

broken. It’s all a fraud, it’s all a shame,

keeping herself hidden from all those

tanks in seconds. The

shell shocked survivors

stumble forward, one

of them on fire, and live

through the art of war by a hair’s width.

The time is come to make good on

all our promises, to strive for potential, in

first strike status looking for

prevention, but not a cure. Don’t think

about anything at all. She wakes up

morning and looks out over the

ruins of the old, imagining in their place

a new beginning, knowing, knowing she

must work hard each and every day

to reach it. It’s efficient, it’s stout, it’s

squat and square, free of the

parasitic ways so fond of by those

who’d lived in the old. She makes the

case for extreme risk; it’s a new form

of life, a new way of living, but the

teal, lead-lined shirt drops to

reveal her naked body, the scars

and the little nicks and bruises of

so much fighting making her seem

real in ways no perfection ever could. We’re

in a spray of metal and

wood, we’re all the same, we’re

along the line, and we’re all

scrambling for cover in the fight for

a new tomorrow. She walks forward,

pushing ahead, matching the pace

of the future stride for stride, never

pausing, never thinking, moving,

walking, running, standing in place even as

she makes for the

plume of dust marking where once

there’d been hope, where once there’d

been dreams. She’s happy. She’s

fulfilled her purpose. She’s made

the future, now.



war never ends, you see, and

as he looks up at the statue erected

where once there’d been nothing but

hopelessness and ambiguity, he

tears open

a gas main and runs

parallel with the street,

exposing it to the flame

and sending a cascade

of fire shooting upwards. Never

mind, he thinks, and he enjoys,

truly enjoys the murmur sweeping

over the crowd. In love, there is

hope, and in hope, there is

an belief stronger than any

other. Relatively new nuclear

positions strike forward boldly,

and sleeping, standing, stilling he seeks

for himself to be among those,

his boldness making the case for

an logical inconsistency, for an

mutual incompatibility. For, you see,

God could create a weight so heavy

even He could not lift it; but then, He

could lift it. In the spirit

of such contradictions where one

finds meaning, where one finds hope,

in the park late in the afternoon under

a banner of grey skies and red words

needing more, more, more. Art,

yet artless, his ideas, his regard for

the zero-sum not fully complete. It’s

raining now, it’s always raining

where he lives, or at least it seems that way.

A firing. Mass hysteria,

mass delusion, all faded into the

past, all swept into the dustbin of

history, the way made forward into a

new future. It’s better this way. It’s

like a never ending waterfall.

He works each and every day,

but he never has to want, his future

secured for itself, by itself. We all

live in the same little concrete cubes, but

we all have for the joy of

immersion in a purity, a desirous

nature, the cold, rocky beaches and the

deep, dark evergreen forests offering

peace of mind. But it’s at a cost

of human flesh and blood. He’s

sent it to himself. Sometimes,

not all the time but sometimes,

he can see, he swears he can see

a broken bone sticking up through the

soil. The ghosts of history

linger. The phantoms of the future

hide in plain sight. We’re here. He’s

there. He’s tired and sore, but fulfilled,

satisfied in a deeply spiritual way.

It’s over,





The End

Thank you for reading this book of poetry. If you enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review at the retailer where you downloaded it. – J.T.

At War Within: A Book of Poetry

  • ISBN: 9781370190669
  • Author: J.T. Marsh
  • Published: 2017-07-22 12:55:20
  • Words: 7704
At War Within: A Book of Poetry At War Within: A Book of Poetry