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Three Poems by William Farrell

The Condescension of Mercy

At that moment

the largest thing in the world

was that eye,

deer, brown.

And the deepest breaths

and the loudest were his,

pitched on a side,

chased as if by wolves,

wheezing out a bloody muzzle,

teeth broken, antler useless,

unable to resurrect within himself

the buck he once was.


The stoop of mercy came

in the short vowel a shot gun exclaims,

and as the slug spread into its brain,

the eye that fixed us all left its socket

and stared at the world as it was,

the uniformed executioner apologizing

to no one for everyone

as the deer tried to run through

the air with its last legs.

The cop, a stand up guy,

telling any who would listen

how he hated to see that.


The Haunt of War

The General writes his memoir,

the usual stuff:

the vice of war,

the stains on a uniform,

trying to come clean

so that he may live with himself

at the White House Wedding

and the National Cemeteries,

through the hand shaking and back slapping

of his peers and the policy makers,

the salutes of children.

He learned French at the Academy

and never used it.

He was taught the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

killing civilians as strategy.

He believed enemies, under maximum fire power,

would buckle.  Only, in his war,

they didn’t buckle.

The cost of war became too much.

He was forced to retire,


At the burn center, his trust in God

faltered.  He saw his belief in all

its manifestations.  How it was born,

how it lived, how it withered.

His daughter is the only family left.

She loved her father, and for the record,

states he died an unhappy man.




          “Only The dead have seen the end of war.”



I live close enough to trains

to hear them at night,

and far enough away

to feel lonely when I do.


Before all of our loves

we will nurse a single hate,

coddle a great fear,

sanctify our wrath,

and bless our children soldiers.


Before all our empathy

we will bleed a single principle,

enlist the easy lie,

come out of the closet with God.


Smart bombs mock our intelligence.

Dead civilians – and we are all civilians –

walk from my imagination to a TV screen.

The do not look at me;

they will not pass quickly.


I have sympathy for the many,

influence over the few.

I live close enough to trains

to hear them at night,

and far enough away

to feel lonely when I do.


M. William Farrell is a retired postman who lives in Milwaukee, Oregon. He has read at the state legislature and and elsewhere but is reluctant to commit his poems to print. He has appeared in the Portland Review and in Mr. Cogito. 

This edition of Poets’ Basement was guest edited by Robert A. Davies, the author of Melons and Mendelssohn. He can be reached at rjdavies3@comcast.net.


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