Lifeblood: A Book of Poems

by Professor Joel Hayward

Joel Hayward Poems 2


I bought a Second-hand Book

I bought a secondhand
book with yellowed
pages and a dying spine.
The cover won me.
A cold lake without ripples or shimmers
before dark mist hills. No sun.
Next to the elegant title in lazy script,
“Scottish Love Poems,” a brooch hung.
Encircled in silver rope a golden-haired
woman with blue eyes and
thick lashes (or thick mascara) smiled.
Not at me.
Not at any reader.
But at her name on the cover,
in the same lazy script:

Antonia Fraser.

I had often read her poems. I knew them.
But right then I couldn’t recall one.
The chilly mirror disappeared.
Her smile remained.
I opened the cover,
noted the publication date
and the passing of twenty-five years.
I tried to lament,
imagining her old.
My mind said no and told my hands
to return the book-cover to my eyes.
She remained there – still does –
without ageing.


The First Casualty of War

scorches forth, back
pulling spectators’ eyes this way, that.

Grunted serves and backhands keep
and the players hoping
to win the crowd
while scoring points.

Fifteen-love? Thirty-love?
These matches have no love.

Crowds care nothing for the ball; only the score.




Absence makes …

Separated by oceans,
lovers poles apart
suffer knowing
that they live in different days.
One sleeps while the other gains
pleasure from differences.

Stoic resignation and Xs on calendars
are armour often worn when time’s
arrows streak in to slay.
Each lover dons an iron helmet,
though some forsake the breastplate.

Can time be defeated, or merely
kept from ravaging love when
unprotected hearts do not grow fonder?
Can phone voices, lacking the power of eyes,
persuade imaginations to sit quietly?

Visitations in dreams are sought
and desires sometimes rewarded.
They fade with dawn and leave
wisps of anxiety that only
the meeting of eyes,
pressing of lips
and holding of hands
can blow distant.




Our Lady

Fear one Goddess above all!
Her name is Sleep.
Her power is frightful.

Who else can
inflict paralysis
steal sight
numb the senses
madden the mind
or banish all thought?

Unequalled magic!
Our Lady leaves no wounds or scars
and few memories of her visits
when she enslaves
the servants of all religions.

Unequalled power!
Our Lady’s seduction is so irresistible
that none can pull away from her tender caresses
keep open their eyes when she bends down to kiss
or drive her away before she has gained satisfaction.




Belgrade, 1999 *

Why do you hate us
And rain down your bombs
From aircraft we cannot see or hear?
Most bombs are smart, you boast,
    as if they don’t kill us like those dropped on Coventry
    with shrapnel and air blasts ripping souls from bodies.

Why do you hate us
And rain down your bombs
And claim we are enemies of freedom?
Serbs are the butchers of the Balkans, you lie,
    forgetting that we served as your allies in two world wars
    and suffered genocide from peoples you now favour.

Why do you hate us
And rain down your bombs
Without trying to get peace through dialogue?
We never listen anyway, you claim,
    even though your “deals” were one-sided and cruel
    and backed up with a bully’s threat of violence.

Why do you hate us
And rain down your bombs
Which destroy bridges, buildings, homes and people?
The world needs leadership,
you insist,
    ignoring the irony
    that we have suffered these horrors before,
    inflicted then by Nazi devils,
    who also claimed the moral high ground.


* For Lazar, Vesna, Dušan and Miloš Dražeta




The Black Forest

The roof-top of the forest
robs day of intruding light.
Strangers get increasingly stressed
when Indian inkiness comes with night.

Poking fires they huddle round
and whisper, talk though seldom yell.
They startle at every unknown sound
as if they came direct from hell.

The noise of creatures adds more fear,
worse because they can’t be seen,
even when they’re seemingly near,
with only blackness in between.

When morning rays finally filter through
courage returns within men’s chests,
warming, along with steaming brew,
removing the chill of dew-damp vests.

Some place chainsaws upon their knees,
saw-teeth of which they file and hone
so they can do with greater ease
what trees’ old age always did alone.

When an ancient giant crashes and dies,
his legs hewn at the heel,
do forest spirits utter anguished cries
that woodsmen never hear or feel?

Oh grieving spirits! Dry your tears.
Your realm will shrink but stay alive.
The gods must know about your fears,
and ensure some loved ones do survive.

Humans aren’t aware of your fright.
They can’t help what they need.
Torment them all you want at night
but don’t break your peaceful creed.

Moan and creak and dry branches break,
deny them sleep as you do.
Yet remember as they fret awake
that they’re the gods’ creation too.




Gleefully you score pictures
on my white bones
with a sharp nail
and wipe Indian ink
into the minute
I watch your scrimshaw emerge
with disinterest
until I see your artwork capture the
moment when an upturned hull
slips beneath the waves
to begin its long descent.
I recognise the ship
as that of which I had proudly
proclaimed myself captain.


Joel Hayward Poetry, Joel Hayward Poet, Joel Hayward Poems