Tag Archives: history

Me, the people

They think buildings can’t read, but I read the signs of the times better than they do

I watched his hungry eyes read my letters and the reply, written on his face
It said “I want you”, and he wanted it all: my power, my people, my standing, my history
Somehow he knew I could change the future
He rejoiced when I burnt down but I didn’t mind – I knew he was doomed
I could read the signs even before his hidden hand started shaking

Did you know I had babies ? I didn’t deliver them but they were mine for a while
I knew I’d be theirs in the future, just as they were mine now

They think buildings can’t read, but I read the signs of the times better than they do
When my mother was torn apart, I didn’t worry, I knew she would heal
When I lay in ruins I didn’t worry, I knew she’d help me recover

They think buildings can’t read, but I read the signs of the times better than they did
Now here I stand, unwrapped, offering a 360-degree view to those who register
I can still change the future, but you don’t read the signs

Today’s prompt at napowrimo.net was “to write a poem that similarly presents a scene from an unusual point of view”. As a former historian, I wondered if there was something historic I wanted to write about. Human history provided slightly too muc choice… I narrowed it down by chosing a topic I’ve used before, but from a different perspective.

First we take Berlin describes the fire in the German Reichstag building from the perspective of the arsonist – but I didn’t choose the Dutch communist who was accused of doing it. Today I decided to use the perspective of the building as a starting point.

I’m late in posting today. I happily blame the fact my day 16 poem was the featured poem today at my favourite #NaPoWriMo website! I celebrated by reading and commenting a lot – one of the great things about poetry month for me is always the connections we form by sharing our words with each other. Thank you all for reading, and thank you all for writing!

The cruelest month

It’s not a game
so when I say
May 1527 must have been the cruelest month
don’t start comparing
the atrocities performed by 25.000 soldiers
(was there an innocent bystander?)
to the sack of May 1084
that burned the city down

It’s not a competition
so when I say
December 564 must have been the cruelest month
don’t compare
the Ostrogoth plunderings to the preceding famine
when the commander of the imperial garrison
refused to sell grain
at a price the average Julius could afford

It’s not a race
so when they say
the sack of 455 was more thorough
than the sack of 410
because the Vandals plundered Rome for fourteen days
whereas the Visigoths spent only three days in the city
don’t wonder
which one contained the cruelest days

Some contests have no winners


NaPoWriMo day four asked us to write about the cruelest month. Since my mind is still in Rome, it was easy to take the sacking of Rome as a starting point. Only, which one? Rome has been sacked several times. I must admit that the description of the atrocities in 1527 struck me the most. But that’s probably just because the Dutch Wikipedia page for this one was most detailed. The English page lacks the horrid details the Dutch page describes. Such are the ways of Wikipedia.

Marble jungle

There was a time when you lived in a divine prison
not permitted to touch a horse
to sleep three nights outside your own bed
to look upon an army

A holy man in a marble jungle

There was a time when they took your plight
they took your money
they took your safety

A common man in a marble jungle

There was a time when pirates held you hostage
you promised to crucify them
you were a man of your word

You returned to your marble jungle

The rest is history, they say
Your pen as mighty as your muscles
you wrote your own

There was a time when you were deified
Before that
You got stabbed

You died in our marble jungle


The prompt for day 3 of #NaPoWriMo 2016 was to write a fan letter. I wouldn’t call myself a fan exactly, but I’ve just been to Rome and that city is on my mind.


First we take Berlin

I was there when it started
man, you should have been there
February 23
We were on fire, you and me

We wrote history
we set the world on fire
we torched the system
we taught those motherfuckers

You should’ve seen her burn
that democratic idol
temptress of the masses
spreading sickness by her golden tits

She deserved what she got
two tongued tramp
harbinger of our exploitation

But what good did it bring us?
February 23

They never caught us
oh no
we set up some communist sucker
to take the blame

But that dim wit
peanut balled
broom lipped
stole our canvas

With crude brush strokes
no sense of perspective
and abominable shading
he ruined our masterpiece

Man, you should’ve seen it
we ruined that Reichstag motherfucker

Burn baby burn
political bollocks inferno

Repeat after me: February 23, 1933

My second go at a New York School poem, because I find the form (well, form…) fascinating. I didn’t want it to be in New York though, and I wanted to give history a try.

My first New York School Poem is called This one’s dedicated to you, love hunter. I love how this type of prompt challenges me to write way outside my comfort zone, and makes me really sit down to write a poem. They are difficult but fun.