About war, they say, there is nothing new on which to gaze. It is as common to order pizza in the midst of the firestorm, as it is to feel the elation of adolescent adventures wane with the winter sun. It is the piquancy of repentance that will ultimately reveal the presence or absence of an Almighty, and by equal turns, the peculiar shape of a lover’s buttocks, that may honk your horn like a goose on the lash. A man surveying a mining disaster may be remembering the battlefields of his youth and wishing one would replace the other, or listing his enemies in an out-of-date Filofax. Two men surveying a mining disaster may be sifting dust hoping to find gold, or preparing to perform Chekhov by playing only the subtext, to transform their own lives through the transformation of others.
Men Recording Dictation
About war, they say, there are no new anecdotes to collect. It is as common for a personal secretary to be within hand’s reach of his direct superior, as it is for him to be on overseas development work. It is the free man who insists we take account of his actions, and by equal turns, no account of his acquired status in society as the ultimate measure of his personality, that may lead to a position within the Office of the Chief of Staff. A man unable to sit his written exam papers due to a laboratory accident may be preparing to repel an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or using the scar tissue as a means of receiving sympathy. Two men unable to sit their written exam papers due to a laboratory accident may vow to resign their posts as part-time hospital porters on ethical grounds when the conflict subsides, or dream of being promoted above their current rank of associate professor without having to do any original research.
Men With the Sun at Their Backs
About war, they say, there is nothing new to give us hope. It is as common to be brutalised, as it is to make a unilateral declaration of independence and fuck the consequences. It is the food shortages, and by equal turns, the political turmoil in the North East, that may give the locals excuse to leave their English lovers. A man nicknamed Bug may be too tall and wide to poke fun at, or so small and frequently unwashed that he will forever be the butt of jokes. Two men nicknamed Bug may have identical disfigurements acquired in a trampoline accident from their days as Army Reservists, or be brothers with unimaginative friends.
Men of Few Thoughts
About war, they say, there is nothing new to divine. It is as common to repeat a lie, as it is to repeat a lie. It is the size of the rod one makes for one’s back, and by equal turns, the size of the rod one makes for the backs of others, that may rock the house to its foundations. A man of sound and healthy mind may never need assistance from his family, friends, or state, or he may fall upon his knees in laughter the moment his optimism is revealed to be based upon a ghastly misreading of Proverbs 5:15. Two men of sound and healthy mind may draw upon their considerable inheritance to avoid military service, or remain in their tents with the brigade’s supply of alcohol.
Men in Fancy Dress
About war, they say, there is nothing new to follow. It is as common to admire a Saxon protagonist returning home empty-handed, as it is to troll him mercilessly online. It is the buoyant nature of the bandit’s manifesto, and by equal turns, the callous opportunism of his second-in-command, that may confuse the groundlings and spur them to demand their money back. A man enfeoffed with divers duchies may have collected so many titles that he decides to crown himself king of a newly-named country, or devote himself to the wishes of his many peoples. Two men enfeoffed with divers duchies may sleep unsoundly due to constant fear of invasion, or open a series of burger bars with a curiously unique selling point unrelated to either duchies or mistruths but raising instead the prospect of their customers dining with cows dressed as the Dukes of LancasterTM (it is entirely predictable the depths to which the aristocracy will gaily plunge when faced by financial ruin).
Mark Russell’s publications include Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop), and Shopping for Punks (Hesterglock). Other poems have appeared in Blackbox Manifold, The Interpreter’s House, Shearsman, Poetry Salzburg Review, and elsewhere.
Illustration Nick Victor