July 7, 2016

Three poems by Stephen Regan: "URGH! They have a problem," "Red-bricked," and "Freedom at a price."

Stephen Regan is a journalist and the founder of the Liver Bards poetry group in Liverpool, England. His poems have been published in: Envoi; Best of Manchester Poets Vol 2 anthology, Reach Poetry, Killing the Angel, and other publications. His poem ‘Unhappy Valley Sunday’ won the runner-up prize in the Sefton Writing Competition of 2011. His flash fiction has been published in sevral e-zines and his play, "Tim: an ordinary boy’" (about the bombing of Warrington in 1993) was staged as part of the Wirral Festival of Firsts in 2014. 


URGH! They have a problem

They’ve been to see us,
the creatures from space.
Our Earth-bound physics
amused them for a while.
Those visitors with mouths
smiled at our parochial science;
and some giggled hysterically
like Cadbury’s Smash aliens
on discovering the small potato
reality of our planet.

They were disappointed
when we didn’t with alacrity
accept their invitation to join
the Community of the Worlds.
‘Every inhabited planet has a right
to membership of the Community
of the Worlds’ – their leaders said,
quoting from the charter of the
United Registry of Global Hierarchies,
or URGH for short.

Oh, some sulking was expected
of the natives when URGH first
visited a world. But on Earth,
the emissaries found,
humans refused to unite
even within their own bounds,
and their clamouring hostility
to alien interaction just grew
and grew and grew. Why?
No-one from URGH knew.

So the visitors abducted
a few locals, ran some tests,
then compared results with
those from creatures of other planets,
where joining the Community of the
Worlds had been a smooth process,
based on obedience.
Obedience was enshrined as a
‘principal mark of civilisation’
in the URGH charter.

Where obedience wasn’t found
URGH’s rulers usually applied
Remedial treatment. That had never
failed – until the mission to Earth.
Six humans were strapped into
the corrector but it malfunctioned,
then it insisted it wasn’t at fault.
The ‘field animals’ were rejected by
the machine as ‘incompatible because
a serious species malfunction’.

URGH officials were dismayed.
Eventually, the condition
was catalogued as an ‘ineradicable
fault in human consciousness’.
The mission to Earth was called off
and the planet deemed ‘not fit for
purpose’. For the first time in URGH
history, the planned take-over of
a world was abandoned.

Eventually the ‘human disease’
was duly named in URGH’s common
language, then, as protocol
demanded, rendered in a major
language of the home planet.
URGH’s linguists chose carefully.
They decided on the word
‘freedom’. Within URGH circles
it was rarely spoken.


On backyard walls
cats patrol
like bored legionaries
on the ramparts of Chester
nearly two millennia ago.

These red-bricked
terraced houses –
home and hearth.
As a boy they
restrained my ambition,
but now, in 2016,
worn and scarred,
they reveal who I am,
worn and scarred.

Red bricks –
of the earth
crafted by men,
anointed by fire,
soaking up the westering light,
reflecting it back
in benediction
for the past transmission
of human identity
across Northern England.

Red-bricked homes,
sacred to memory –
I see in their contemporary
senescence, down
drug-raddled alleys,
the ghosts of past glories

Freedom at a price

It was from the beginning
uncomfortable being human;
being the beings between
angels and the beasts.

We factored in gods
and moral law,
emanating from the ineffable,
interpreted by the f-able.
Make that work and survive!
Well, we did, with big casualties
and many paradoxes
along the way, including this –
to achieve peace and justice,
lasting long enough to be
worth the effort,
we sometimes had to go
to war.

Glad I mentioned justice, by the way.
It’s arguably more important than equality
in the quest for our freedom.

Try to enforce equality
among humans and de facto
you impose injustice and kill freedom.
Ask the libertarian socialists
about that.

And look back; it’s always wise to do so.
We’ve survived so far under strong chieftains
and /or ethically-justified laws. In the West
it worked like this, theoretically;
we lived and died in freedom,
under the law, within nations.
I know, I know! We need to change
the paradigm and the power dime.
In 2016 we can’t go on like this.

Climate crises, capitalism,
military oppression and suppression,
twisted faiths, widespread worship of the self,
and Evil emboldened to promenade –
it’s all in the mix in 2016.

But most humans do now have
the ‘freedom’ to express themselves
through social media – so showcasing
idiocy, illiteracy, immorality, rushes
to judgement, calls for vengeance,
emotional incontinence, and all manner
of ego-driven drivel. You read it and wonder
is such freedom of expression necessarily
a good thing for the people of Earth?

~Stephen Regan


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