Poem: Out of the Quagmire

All week I wanted to stop listening to, reading about and watching coverage of the horrific Orlando shooting, but like many people, I am transfixed by these now too-familiar stories, always looking for the why. Then I heard this woman talking on As It Happens about the discovery of a massive hunk of butter preserved for millennia in the Irish bog. It was a fascinating story, and I couldn’t help but imagine how our world might be different if we gave up all our assault rifles to the earth.


Out of the Quagmire


The Irish woman on the radio relives the moment

she touched a 2000-year-old,

22-pound hunk of odorous bog butter.

An offering to the Gods to protect

a man’s family, his fields, his livestock,

now here again in mortal hands.

A wish kept whole in the earth.


I’ve seen photos of bodies, pulled from the same peat,

their bronzed skin stretched across sharp cheekbones,

leather men and women with red, acid-stained hair.

Ropes around the neck, holes in the skull,

even ancient corpses tell how

but rarely the why.


Weapons too, preserved by the bog —

hammers, swords, spears, shields.

Iron-age artillery. Basic.

Not high capacity, quick-reload,

reliable, user-friendly, efficient.

Not marketable, profitable, stock shares soaring

before the dead have been named.


The Irish woman talks about what the bog can sustain,

but what will it grant? Prayers or amnesty?

Is there room enough for so many mistakes?

If we offered, would it keep our rifles

for another thousand years?

Until some future human’s hands

might pull them from the quagmire,

and note how primitive. How uncivilized.

How simple they were

to think love

could be so easily silenced.



I’m taking part in the flash fiction challenge over at Terrible Minds to write a “Knock Knock, Who’s There?” piece. Half-cheating with this, as I had the opening few lines written before Christmas and didn’t know where to go. Still not sure where to take it if I were to make it longer, but sometimes I like ambiguity in a small package.



               They had the package delivered to the home of Pastor Ben Merrit, at 6:15 p.m. on December 24th, minutes before the pastor and his family would leave for service.

There was a knock on the door and the good pastor answered.  No one was there, but on the step sat a small, red box, and a white tag that said “Peace.” He flipped it over and read: “To Pastor Merritt & Family. Love, The Devoted.”

They had no real understanding of love. But They did observe how that particular human emotion seemed to spread at Christmas.

“Who’s it from, hon?” his wife asked.

“Not sure,” said Ben. He opened the box to find a metal cylinder with three holes. “Not sure what it is either.”

As he held it up, a puff of green mist floated up his nose.

“What …?” he said, and instantly felt a warm tingle in his face, spreading through his head. Then he heard a voice, speaking from within.

“Greetings, Ben. We are one with you now. Embrace your beloved so we may grow.”

“Ben? Are you alright,” his wife asked.

“It’s the angels! Angels!”

He hugged his wife tight, his breath seeping out his mouth and up her nose.

“I feel them! It’s glorious!” she said. “Kids, come!”

Joe, the eldest, was the last to join the embrace. He’d never been a true believer, and when the voice inside spoke, he shrieked, “It’s not angels. It’s something…else.”

But it was a lost warning. They had already begun.