peter kocan

Eternally a threadbare Jacobite,
He passes like a shadow through the town,
Accustomed to the exile of the night
And loyal to some wholly other Crown.
Seeing the town, how cosily it lies,
He fleetingly imagines he could stop,
Adopt another name, a slight disguise,
Marry and settle there and run a shop…
But instantly there comes a bitter pride
That draws him on again without a pause.
To live would seem contemptible beside
The tragic beauty of a beaten cause.
The folly was so long persisted in,
And its defeat was so perversely brave,
He scorns the lesser battle he could win,
Disdains the little realm that he could save.
It is the only faith he has to keep
As he continues on his destined way,
No longer seeking anything but sleep
With sword and pistol by him in the hay.
—  Peter Kocan
"To a Woman Reading 'The Wind in the Willows,'" Peter Kocan

Peeping through the door an inch ajar,
I see you curled-up with your favourite book.
I wonder where precisely now you are,
What green, familiar, friendly path you took—

Ignore them, the neurotic and the driven,
Who’d say your book’s a trivial escape.
What harm if an imagined land is given
A simpler ethos and a gentler shape?

What fitter story could a grown-up find
Than one which makes uncomplicated sense
Of things like being brave and being kind,
Of virtues so important and immense?

And just as stories help the young rehearse
Their courage at the level they can bear,
They do the same for us—except we’ve worse
Than boogies in the shadow of the stair.

Our Wildwood is truly dark and deep,
And no adult who knows it will deride
The fact you find it comforting to keep
Ratty and Mole and Badger at your side.

Cathedral Service by Peter Kocan

I’m only here because I wandered in
Not knowing that a service would begin,
And had to slide into the nearest pew,
Pretending it was what I’d meant to do.

The tall candles cast their frail light
Upon the priest, the choir clad in white,
The carved and polished and embroidered scene,
The congregation numbers seventeen.

And awkwardly I follow as I’m led
To kneel or stand or sing or bow my head.
Though these specific rites are strange to me,
I know their larger meaning perfectly—

The heritage of twenty centuries
Is symbolised in rituals like these,
In special modes of beauty and of grace
Enacted in a certain kind of place.

This faith, although I lack it, is my own,
Inherent to the marrow of the bone.
To this even the unbelieving mind
Submits its unbelief to be defined.

Perhaps the meagre congregation shows
How all of that is drawing to a close,
And remnants only come here to entreat
These dying flickers of the obsolete.

Yet when did this religion ever rest
On weight of numbers as the final test?
Its founder said that it was all the same
When two or three were gathered in his name.

© Peter Kocan