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Four Letter Words

Four Letter Words



Ten thousand years of thought and toil

That wrought the iron, tilled the soil,

Are written in our teeming brows

With all that intellect allows.

But that which we have built and made,

This mastery and skill displayed,

These citadels of pride and power

Are vain beside a simple flower.

And all that rational mind can show

Is pallid when the breezes blow

Along the hedgerows, summer born,

Dew beaded blossoms at the dawn.


And in our breasts despite our skills

Lurk passions older than the hills,

Passions that command the beast

Command the best of us and least

To stir our genes to rage or lust,

To immortality or dust.

Two words compass all our range,

Immune to cease, or loss or change,

When scientific wisdom fails,

What makes us human yet prevails.


The first of these, a god of war,

Mired in fury, spite and gore

Colossus-like bestrides the world

Deathly banner all unfurled

Spear, shield, forgotten, as he stands

With missiles nestled in his hands.

And yet, for all his legions massed

By one small word he is surpassed.


This second word, on lips sublime

Once murmured in that ear divine

Soothes the anger, calms and heals

Rinses bloodied chariot wheels

Cleanses hands in like degree

And sends the spirit soaring free

In search of what is pure and whole

To nourish body, mind and soul.


This second word descends unbidden

To the heart’s deep places hidden

And nurtured there sets forth its hand

To guide the actions, goad, command

And otherwise bring on the fall

Of sense and logic’s once proud wall

Like castles built upon the strand

This tide race undermines the sand

And all that’s sure was built in vain

When pain is pleasure-pleasure pain.

How bitter-sweet, how true the lie

That tilt of chin or glint of eye

That kindle fire within our core

Will live within us evermore.


And then one day the barb strikes true

And all that once you thought you knew

Was superficial froth and whimsy,

Insubstantial, frail and flimsy.

Hearts once pierced are built anew

Hair of gold or eyes of blue

Enshrined there whilst the years roll by

And take their toll of hair and eye

And youth depletes its vital force

As humid pleasures run their course.

All passion spent, all fervour flown

And yet that word, mutated, grown

Holds deeper still by days defined

With futures narrowed, pasts entwined.


Four letters, hold the world in thrall,

The pulse race is to hear the call

A word found in the dawn of years

A word enriched with joy and tears


Embroidered there with hearts and flowers

Storied all with knights and towers

One word to end when days are done

One last salute, the setting sun

To cheer the timid, spur the brave

Four letters that transcend the grave.



Martin Dukes



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