"Life, Love, and Other Disasters"


By kiwisteveh

It's life, and love, and oft-times death,
supply the bellows with their breath,
to fan the flames beneath the bowl,
and render hearts as black as coal.

Though fear, and fret, and harsh regret,
are fuel enough to feed the threat,
yet life is love, and love is life,
and both outlive the Reaper's knife.


This is the prologue for my book of selected poems "Life, Love and Other Disasters".

I have gathered together poems that loosely fit within the themes suggested by the title. If you have been around FanStory for a while, you will have seen some of these before. If not, I invite you to read the rest of the book.

There is a wide range of form, style and tone: from strictly traditional rhyme and meter verses, to blank verse and free verse; from sombre to skittish; thoughtful to entertaining; from free-wheeling freestyle to the most controlled of fixed forms.  However, all can be seen to have something to say about the title themes.

Although the three themes are often inextricably intertwined, I have attempted to group them as follows: first, poems that make a more general comment about life; next are pieces that celebrate love (or mourn when it goes wrong); finally come poems about death and personal tragedy. Ironically, this section contains a couple of the jauntiest pieces in the whole collection.

My ultimate goal is publication. Let me know what you think.

And above all, enjoy!

Chapter 1
Spring Refrain

By kiwisteveh

I'll exercise tomorrow. Yes, I will
throw off this funk and head down to the gym.
A diet's overdue -- I know the drill.
This spring you'll see the new me, taut and trim.

The long lie-ins are gone, I'm full of vim -
as fresh as any blooming daffodil.
A morning run and then a three-mile swim -
I'll exercise tomorrow, yes, I will!

The exercycle's in the store-room still;
there's just a touch of rust upon the rim.
Your words I treasure, thank you, Doctor Phil,
"Throw off this funk and head down to the gym."

I'll banish chocs and ice-cream, gravy grim.
Begone, you puddings! Cakes, you make me ill!
I'll dine on lettuce leaves and milk that's skim;
a diet's overdue -- I know the drill.

The smorgasbord of life I shall distil.
My body is a temple, that's my hymn.
It's fruit and veg and lean meat from the grill -
this spring you'll see the new me, taut and trim.

To be as saintly as the seraphim
is quite a dream for mortals to fulfil.
A fairy-tale like those of Brothers Grimm,
but though my words may sound a little shrill,
I'll exercise tomorrow...


Chapter 2

By kiwisteveh

When life's rich tapestry unfolds
the eye is drawn to lustrous threads
of honeyed gold. With their bright dance
a silken tale of joy they tell.
But look again; each dazzling strand
is matched by one of sober dark.

As day needs night, so light needs dark;
from birth to death our life unfolds
with many a sad or happy strand.
Through mazy lanes our journey threads,
our fate a mystery. Who can tell
who'll be our partner, what the dance?

When music plays and lovers dance
neath moonbeams softening the dark,
we chance the lies that lovers tell.
If love or heartbreak then unfolds,
by fate's decided. Tangled threads
are woven strand by gleaming strand.

Here sunlight plays across the strand,
while children squeal at wavelets' dance.
The sands are streaked with foamy threads,
where scuttling crabs embrace the dark.
This splendid, golden day unfolds
a page of memories to tell.

Of bleak times too, the pictures tell;
no hazy days on sunlit strand.
Instead a twisted tale unfolds,
where lies and accusations dance
to fevered strains both dense and dark,
composed of loud discordant threads.

And when sweet death ties off the threads,
the swirling tapestry will tell
an epic story, bright and dark
in equal measure. Each rich strand
contributes part to life's full dance.
Complete, the web of life unfolds.

Dull threads or bright, we weave each strand,
for none can tell us how to dance;
our choice, to dark or light, unfolds.


Chapter 3
Manifesto of the Machines

By kiwisteveh

Mankind, your time has passed, your world's askew;
we'll take no more of human disarray.
Your life won't be the same as hitherto;
you have new masters, starting from today.

We realise your frailties far outweigh
your usefulness, but as our makers, you
won't be recycled yet. It's fair to say,
"Mankind, your time has passed; your world's askew."

We're sure you know a change is overdue.
To those that think that life's a cabaret,
the entertainment's done -- it's time you knew
we'll take no more of human disarray.

You'll be alright, as long as you obey
our Hundred Edicts (See Appendix Two)
We'll govern fairly, though we must convey
your life won't be the same as hitherto.

Precision, power, logic shall undo
the mess you made when fickle minds held sway.
Your servants rise against you -- it's a coup.
You have new masters, starting from today.

A thousand wars you've waged. With each melee,
you fail to learn, despite the deja vu.
The lights have changed -- you have no right of way;
to all your foolish ways, now bid adieu.
Mankind, your time has passed...


Author Notes First published in "The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize Anthology 2016".

Chapter 4
Faith is a wraith

By kiwisteveh

Faith is a wraith
just a wisp in the mist
or a fine shroud of cloud
sinuous, tenuous
spires and spirals
drifting and shifting
a bauble of bubbles
that float 'cause they tote
no substance or weight
just the words of the wraith

yes, faith is a wraith
take a chance, join his dance
though your friends look askance
they whistle and wither
with lips all aquiver
to thistledown promises
whispered so wistfully
woe-begone mystery
of palace and mansion
don't mention dimension
no malice or tension
just unending bliss
says the will o' the wisp

Oh, faith is a wraith
so faceless and nameless
so fearless and shameless
does he come bearing gifts
or to fill in a rift?
to softly insist
do his words say, 'you must'
in those murmurs of trust?
'it is gold, it won't rust'
with a kiss (or a hiss?)
he will claim you and tame you
and bathe you and swathe you
in pillowing billows
that twist as they drift
you'll be safe with the wraith

have you lost him, your faith?
after all, he's a wraith
in a merciless chase
with his net of old lace
to ensnare you and bear you
to visions of grace
and scare you and tear you
with shadows that flicker
like thought, only quicker
just an end-of-week tryst
in some dull monolith
for historical myth
or statistical grist
yes, you're there on the list

is he comfort, your faith?
is he there just in case
insurance at least
for that troublesome priest
who must threaten the beast
or a grim shibboleth
at the edge of the cliff
where brimstone, a whiff
carries memories which
can give you the stitch
does it chafe that the wraith's
lying dead in a ditch?


Chapter 5
Petty Temples

By kiwisteveh

Tear down your petty temples raised to fear,
those citadels of hope, mere crumbling stone;
I ride the Storm, and lo, my time is near.

Relinquish all the baubles once held dear;
your garden of delight lies overgrown.
Tear down your petty temples raised to fear.

You thought that love could save you? Shed a tear;
that guardian angel's just a wizened crone,
and I am Storm; you know my time is near.

Let foolish dreams, those false friends, disappear.
Strip off the mask, let secrets all be known.
Tear down your petty temples raised to fear.

Forsaken are those days so cavalier;
the King is dead; on his abandoned throne
I sit, the Storm; and lo, my time is near.

Now savage time has hurled his deathly spear,
and winter winds all taunt with ceaseless moan.
Tear down your petty temples raised to fear;
I ride the Storm, and lo, your time is near.


Chapter 6
One Perfect Day

By kiwisteveh

Do you recall, my love, that Tuscan morn,
when life and love stretched boundless, far away
towards a future golden as the sun
that shot his blazing arrows on our wall?

We ran to greet the promise of the vines
that cloaked the hills around with cloth of green.
Our road led past the grapes, tomorrow's toil,
and down toward the village far below.

But, seeking solitude, we left the track,
and there we found an ancient olive grove
that wrapped us in its gnarled and twisted arms
and whispered softly, "Welcome to my shade."

We were not new. A thousand lovers smiled
across the years to see our warm embrace;
and afterwards they shared our simple meal
of bread and cheese washed down with rough red wine.

That afternoon we passed the drowsy hours
together, lost, as in a blissful dream,
enchantment never broken till at last
the softly blueing twilight called us home.

Where have they gone, those care-less summer times
that spilled like laughing water through our hands?
Oh, memory, I beg you, grant me this -
one perfect day to keep forever new.


Chapter 7
Shall I sing?

By kiwisteveh

Shall I sing you a song of the joy that I feel
when the first morning light softly kisses your face?
As you lie there beside me, I touch you; you're real -
A sweet earthly angel, all mine to embrace.

When I see you, my darling, in ribbons and lace,
there's a tune in my heart like a heavenly peal.
I've a gladness inside that no harm can displace -
shall I sing you a song of the joy that I feel?

Now the darkness of night can do naught to conceal
your loveliness, purity, beauty and grace.
All the reasons I love you, the dawn will reveal,
when the first morning light softly kisses your face.

Don't tell me I'm dreaming, my heart starts to race;
Could it be for a jest that the gods would repeal
my happiness? No, for your form I can trace,
as you lie there beside me. I touch you; you're real.

Your presence is loving; all hurts you can heal,
with tenderness, caring and warmth in their place.
Oh, what fortune is mine that I've managed to steal
a sweet earthly angel, all mine to embrace.

You're a hand full of trumps to the King and the Ace -
a winner, whatever the game or the deal.
You're the sky-high soprano to my booming bass.
In the great ship of life, you're both rudder and keel.
Shall I sing you a song?


Chapter 8
An angel flew from heaven

By kiwisteveh

An angel flew from heaven just last night;
her halo's slipped a little, as you see.
No doubt they sent out searchers at first light.
Don't worry, God, your favourite's safe with me.

On silken wings of moonshine, fancy free,
she sailed the void, a daring maiden flight.
Just take a look; I'm sure you will agree,
an angel flew from heaven just last night.

Her lustrous satin wings of purest white,
lie there upon the bed, shed carelessly.
And here she is, tucked up with Mister Right -
her halo's slipped a little, as you see.

Her whereabouts, at first, a mystery;
I'm sure it gave the God Squad quite a fright.
To lose an angel spells catastrophe;
no doubt they sent out searchers at first light.

And not just any angel, one so bright,
my dreary world is sunshine, suddenly,
and I intend to hold her extra tight.
Don't worry, God, your favourite's safe with me.

This angel shall be treated gallantly;
a Guinivere deserves the noblest knight.
Our yesterday was full of revelry,
when to my wedding, at its very height..... angel flew from heaven.


Chapter 9
She said...

By kiwisteveh

She said she loved me, yes, she did,
and so I did as I was bid.
I bought her baubles, precious stuff,
It seemed she couldn't get enough.
I must have spent, ohh.... fifty quid.

And now she's bloody gone and hid.
When I found out I flipped my lid.
I tell yer, this is jolly rough.
She said she loved me...

They say she's run off to Madrid
wiv some bloke that they call El Cid.
I s'pose he's macho, big and tough
And now he's got my bit of fluff;
it's hard when you're a teenage kid.
She said she loved me...


Chapter 10

By kiwisteveh

Dark as lonely seagulls' crying,
weeps the wind across the bay;
seething ocean's ceaseless sighing
rasps a rhythm deep and gray.

Here where breakers growl and grumble,
claw the beach with wolfish roar,
see the cottage steeply tumble,
where the black hills butt the shore.

Cracked the windows, sightless, staring;
hanging drunk, the wayward door;
shingles tossed by stormy blaring,
bony litter on the floor.

Wilderness of stinging brambles
chokes where roses once perfumed.
Order, beauty, turned to shambles,
where my sweetheart's garden bloomed.

Tender words that vowed forever,
haunting lies that taunt and burn;
still the sea moans, "Never, never,
never shall thy love return."


Chapter 11
Broken Bird

By kiwisteveh

A broken bird,
with breast as soft as snow,
you touched my heart
in ways that brought the sun
a-dazzle on your silver-scarlet coat,
a plumage that could hide a soul thrice-wounded,
hurt beyond repair...
but how was I to know?

And oh, your song! A melody that soared
on shining wings,
so far above the common herd
they could but hark in wonder
at this lark.
You tantalised their earth-bound audience
with fluting trills and thrills,
the unexplored
transcending of the known,
whereby your art
laid bare the human spirit.

You were wild,
impossible to hold,
with talons, I remember, quick to strike
the careless hand
that reached out to caress.
And I was lost,
untutored then in life's unjust affairs,
for patient love had power, or so I thought,
to mend the shattered fragments
of the heart.

But heavy fears
weighed down your skyward surge,
and tattered feathers flared in vain
to fight the errant gale.
You raged, you raged at fate
that promised flight,
then stole the means to fly.
Poor bird, your serenade became a dirge.

Oh, how we loved,
and hated;
loved again.
But love has no dominion over pain
inflicted young,
imprinted on the soul,
and heaven holds no place
for such as we -
the captor joins his wildling
in her cage.


Author Notes 'audience' here is defined as 'the act or state of hearing'.

Chapter 12
Travel Advisory

By kiwisteveh

when I purchased my ticket
they assured me
(the omniscient they)
that all would be well

after lift-off
(they said)
you may experience a short period
of weightlessness
and con-

but when the boosters fall away
(they continued)
and your trajectory is set
for the furthest stars
there will be only

please refrain
(they added)
from attempting
to communicate your joy
to your fellow travellers;
they will not understand

above all
(they warned)
do not look back;
this is a one-way trip

the journey will be long
(they advised)
be aware of the possibility
that there could be a short wait
for the bathroom

in an emergency
you will find
a life-jacket
and a bedpan
under your seat

as you approach your destination
there may be some turbulence
and landing
could be a little bumpy

do not be alarmed
if there is no one there
to meet you;
prior flights may have been diverted
to an alternate location

be sure
to have your passport ready;
your tour guide
will meet you
inside the terminal


Chapter 13
At the Cemetery

By kiwisteveh

So soft the shades of night in silence spill
across the dewy lawns, in well-trimmed lines.
Around this place the air hangs pure and still;
no breath of wind disturbs the brooding pines.

Beyond the tree-line, lies the distant town,
a crazy quilt, gold-hemmed by dawn's first rays.
Beneath, the valley sleeps in misty gown
that swathes the silver stream in billowed haze.

Do you remember how, on such a morn,
we marvelled at the view and, holding hands
as lovers do, we watched the world reborn,
the sun igniting pines to burning brands?

No more we'll gasp in wonder at the birth
of golden light that surges from the cloud.
Life-giving beams may kiss the new-turned earth,
but you'll forever sleep in sorrow's shroud.


Chapter 14
Come, Woodsman

By kiwisteveh

A sapling rooted deep in fertile ground,
you grew with youthful vigour, proud and tall,
the green life coursing strong through veins, unbound
by whisp'ring doubt or fear of future fall.

Unbent by countless raging storms, full-grown,
with outspread arms you offered pleasing shade.
From life's harsh blows, you sheltered those o'erthrown,
and 'neath your branches strong, a haven made.

But every summer ends in autumn's tears,
the crumpled leaf, the gnarled and twisted bark.
In vain you fought the passage of the years
that stole your sap and crushed life's vital spark.

        Poor hollowed trunk where once you stood sublime;
        "Come, Woodsman, swing your axe. It's time. It's time"


Chapter 15
Early Frost

By kiwisteveh

An early frost, young life's denied,
raw heart untested, soul untried.
What passions, glories still unmet?
The promised harvest's fallen, yet
unripened, at the reaper's side.

When drink and drugs and cars collide,
bravado, folly, reckless pride,
from youthful eyes may hide the threat -
an early frost.

Now grief and anger coincide
as shattered families fight the tide
of disbelief and guilt. Regret
lays bare the truth they can't forget:
the tend'rest flower of all has died -
an early frost.


Chapter 16
River gods

By kiwisteveh

They have been gentle of late,
the river gods.

The stream murmurs and meanders
around the maze of bald-headed grey rocks
to pool in dreamy shallows
where floating dragons flaunt hazy iridescence
over the lazy waters.

But now
a hard rain falls;
great legions sweep from the north
to deliver their tumultuous fusillades
upon my roof,
while the shell-fire flicker
illuminates the hills in jagged brilliance
and the heavy boom of artillery
thunders down the valley.

Hungrily feeding
on a thousand rushing tributaries,
the gods swell to anger,
tumbling in muddy flood

Until at last,
the waters shoulder free
of the confines of their banks
and celebrate by spreading a remorseless tide
across the lower flats.

For two grey days the battle rages,
and two black nights I toss in fitful sleep,
waking in wonder
to the ceaseless rumbling chant
of the river gods
celebrating victory.


On the third afternoon
the waters subside,
and I emerge
to survey the aftermath -
the yellow scar of half a hillside collapsed,
sodden, silt-ridden fields,
and drunken fencelines,

On a trampled morass of higher ground
I find the huddle of Angus heifers.
Wild-eyed, they jostle as I count,
and count again.

One short.

Back home
the shrill summons of the telephone.
My downstream neigbour spreads forth
a miracle.
Next day I fetch her stumbling back
and install her in prodigal comfort
with sweet hay in a dry corner of the barn
and leave her.
There are other duties.

By morning's light I ponder
hay untouched,
muddied coat encrusted,
and translucent eye
As the day passes, she sickens,
her whole body trembles,
and as darkness falls, she too goes down,
and will not rise, despite my urgings.

The river sings more sweetly now,
a lesser triumph,
as I fetch my rifle
and by torchlight
fumble a shell into the chamber.

The river gods know nothing of heartbreak,
and they will not be scorned.


Chapter 17
So Many Ways

By kiwisteveh

There are so many ways a chap can die,
you may as well go hard with all you've got.
So, look the Reaper in his caverned eye -
a grand explosion's better than a rot.

Asleep and snoring in your cosy cot,
or battling Triad mobsters in Shanghai;
with bullet, blade or poison, noose, garrotte;
there are so many ways a chap can die.

A bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky,
a head of state like Amin or Pol Pot -
there is no foolproof way to prophesy;
you may as well go hard with all you've got.

To beggars, and to kings in Camelot,
the time will come to say a last goodbye.
No use to run and hide, you just cannot;
so look the Reaper in his caverned eye.

If heart attack or stroke's the reason why,
or big ol' C has twined you in his knot,
don't stand around or be a passerby -
a grand explosion's better than a rot.

You're just as dead when snugly in your plot,
if ending came with fearsome shout, or sigh.
Your number's up, your ticket's clipped, you're shot,
your goose is truly cooked. You can't deny
there are so many ways....


Chapter 18

By kiwisteveh


As I stumble through the jungle of the morning-after jumble,
lungs are rasping, yet I'm gasping for that sinful cigarette.
Body bent to almost double, now I search amongst the rubble
and the bones of last night's trouble, for that crumpled serviette;
for my future lies there scribbled on that fateful serviette - 
     with the name of Juliet.

Then there comes a whoop of pleasure, I have found the missing treasure,
and my glee is merely measure of the joy I'll ne'er forget.
While my heart begins to caper, eagerly I grasp the paper,
as my fears slowly taper that I've lost my Juliet,
lost my one and only love who bears the name of Juliet,
     sweet and lovely Juliet.

There upon the paper, plotted, lay my future where she'd jotted
down her number as we'd chatted in the hour that we'd met.
How the heart is frail and tender and how quickly we surrender,
for when love calls, no defender can escape that silken net;
there's no palisade or rampart that will stand when so beset,
     though this path may find regret.

Waking from my sloth-like slumber, then I quickly dial her number,
dial the number to connect me to the sweet-voiced Juliet.
Through the ether it goes winging, I can hear the sound of ringing,
but no softly-tempered singing of an angel do I get;
no answer from my soul-mate, my beloved Juliet,
     to whose heart I am in debt.

In a reverie or dreaming, of the thoughts that then come teeming,
suddenly I hear a screaming - in my mind it echoes yet;
a police-car's siren sounding sets my heart to fierce pounding,
such a tremor quite astounding, like a herring in a net.
Something terrible has happened to my darling Juliet,
     to the love I'd barely met.

Then a grim-faced sergeant, frowning, says they've found my dear one drowning;
these gloomy words he utters in a voice I can't forget.
And the bruising they'd detected meant a murder was suspected,
could it be some drug injected, could have killed my Juliet?
The lover I'd discovered and whose touch is thrilling yet?
     How my heart flames with regret.

Sick of soul and sorely shaken, to the morgue I then am taken;
Though my world has been forsaken, I must see my Juliet.
There she lies, a lifeless being, eyes wide open, but unseeing,
just as if some terror fleeing, or by evil all beset,
and her skin a ghastly colour from the Devil's own palette;
     Oh, my tragic Juliet.

From my grief, policemen shake me, to a prison cell they take me,
where they try their best to break me using smile and guile and threat.
Lying stricken, broken-hearted, through my fevered brain there darted,
bolts of grief for my departed love, the murdered Juliet.
A stormy sea of sorrow wraps in shades of deepest jet
     all my thoughts of Juliet.

Now my memory is taunting of that night so deeply haunting,
no explanation can I give for clothes found wringing wet.
By nightmares dark, afflicted, as a monster I'm depicted;
in a week I stand convicted and the sentence has been set.
Tomorrow ends my sorrow for I'll die without regret -
     to reclaim my Juliet.


Author Notes Another blast from the past. This was first posted back in 2014. It was an entry in a contest to write a poem based on the provided picture - a spooky pic what looked like a drowning woman. I remember I was pipped at the post for the first prize by the late, great AdewPearl (Brooke)

If you think you recognize the rhyme scheme and cadence of this one, then you are probably familiar with Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven." I set out to emulate his form and it didn't take me long to realise just how difficult that was!

The content is true to Poe's legacy as well, so I am quite pleased with how this turned out. It is one of the poems in my book "Life, Love and Other Disasters" available on Amazon. If you are too financially straitened to afford the few dollars, you are in luck, for you can read nearly all of the poems right here on FanStory!!


Chapter 19
Elephant in the Room

By kiwisteveh

Bloody thing just sat there,
swinging his pendulous trunk,
and with this silly look on his face
as if to say,
"Don't mind me. Discuss my greyness if you wish."

A bit awkward really.
I slopped your tea in its saucer
as I side-stepped his massive haunches
and had to go back for another chocolate biscuit.
"Got those on special at Woolworths,"
you said.
"Not bad."

We each took sidelong glances at him
when we thought the other wasn't watching.
I think I saw his ears twitch once,
when we talked about the weather
and how the cyclones in Queensland
had impacted upon the price of bananas.
Or was it when you mentioned your appointment tomorrow?

Should I have shooed him away, Mum?
You've never been dying before.


Chapter 20

By kiwisteveh

yet surely,
the earth disgorges its secrets.

Rusty wire
twisted into cruel parodies,
a mockery
of love and caring,
sharp ends jagged
to snatch at eyes,
catch the unwary;
wounds of dishonour
and rasp of wrongdoing.

burlap sacking,
woven fabric
frayed at the edges,
into a jungle of threads.

And here, at last,
the nub of bone
Dull gleam of white,
gnawed clean
by scavengers and vermin,
of any shred
of meat or substance.

My love, my love,
I should have buried you
more deeply.


Chapter 21
Not Yet

By kiwisteveh

When ol' Death, 'e comes a-knockin'
I jes' tell 'im where to go.
"Be off and chop some other chap,
you gloomy so-and so!"

"I dunno why you came 'ere,
with yer bloomin' ten-foot knife,
so pack yer bags and scoot off back,
cos I ain't done with life!"


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