Posted by: John Looker | 14 November, 2015


they hope to build the walls of heaven
with skulls;
they think by filling the halls of paradise
with screaming
they will be pleasing the ears of God;
in slaughtering others
they grant themselves the title ‘martyr’.

And if they hear the laughter
they would not know
how it ascends
from far,
far be-

© John Looker 2015




  1. You nailed it. A disgusting lot. Terrorism in the name of a god?? Never.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely powerful John.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent John, Up to your usual high standard. And very relevant today.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John, I don’t even have words for the insanity that you comment on here so simply and clearly. I just know I despair beyond hope.

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  5. Excellent, John

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The horror is perfectly rendered in this, John…in poetic imagery and alignment on the page. Acutely relevant today….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have shared this on the BB FB page, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bravo! The final image in its slowness cracks the numbness we feel when I’m terror. See my tiny essay on terror at

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. John, I came here today, of all days, a few hours after the carnage in Paris. It is strange to think of paradise in terms of skulls and screaming, isn’t it? The perpetuator of violence as martyr is another strange concept. What is it to be human? To find laughter from far, far below inside the echoing of screams of despair and fear? The poem fits the pall descending over the western world. Why? Human? Really? How does that not seem right?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. John: Obviously I am losing touch with your poetry. A poem a day! Goodness. But I wanted to comment on your extraordinary poem ‘Again’. I pulled it up because I had just written a poem called ‘Again’ and I wanted to see if there any similarities. On the surface if it, nothing could be further from each other than these two poems. Your poem is sparked by a horrible event [again], mine seemingly issues from the poet’s library. Yours is radical; mine somewhat conservative. Let me look at yours at little more closely. There is that opening …line? A colon. One has to look at the whole poem to get some idea what you’re trying for. The lines open out—grow longer—and then shrink back to a final ‘low’. Generally a colon is an invitation to continue reading, a gate. The first part introduces what follows. Here there is nothing to lead or follow. How would one pronounce that?
    The second line is ‘still’. Still! Still they hope to build the walls of heaven with skulls. Or does it refer back to the title?
    The third line is remarkable for its suggestion. Has heaven got walls? Is in need of them? Skulls for walls. A place filled with screaming. Yet it seems thoroughly appropriate: An imagining of the afterlife that is commensurate with their actions. Religion seems to be thoroughly desiccated. A blown husk that is finished.
    As the second stanza winds its way down—and I do mean down—the suggestion is that the forces of evil are thoroughly pleased. That laughter is trans-religious. It sums up a situation perfectly. There is a disconnect between Christianity and Islam that seems unsurmountable. If there is only one God, there is only one devil—and he is pleased at the turn of events.
    Still, I can’t resist offering some further reflections. I find the tendency to fill heaven with our imaginings dismaying. The real enemy of religion is atheism. The possibility that there is nothing there after death is a frightening thing to most religions. Its increasing probability may account for the increasing ‘overly imagined’ stories of that…place? That ‘I’ am not going to continue after my death is a strange thing [still] to think about. For one thing, you won’t be there to do any thinking. Contemporary philosophers speculate whether death can be seen as bad for you—because ‘you’ are not there. See Thomas Nagel’s essay ‘Death’ for a good discussion of this situation. [I’m pretty sure it is on-line.] Being religious ought not to make you closed to thought, no matter how disconcerting to your perspective. I fear the nature of heaven is a landmine awaiting detonation.
    I had a student that was a Muslim from Africa. He once explained to me that whenever they tried to take a picture of Muhamad the film did not register his image. It was a surprise to him that Muhamad lived before the invention of the camera. The depths of ignorance are perhaps as much a cause as any high-faultin’ theory. I have a hard time blaming the education system for such a lack of historical sense.
    Thanks, John, it’s an excellent poem. That colon at the beginning. Boy.


    • Thank you so much for this Jim. It is packed with ideas and observations and I’m going to take my time over it. Part of my response will be on your own poetry site.
      For now, I’ll merely say that this was first drafted nearly a year ago (and the recent suite of 8 poems took over 12 months although I posted them one a day). “Again” therefore had time to evolve. That colon appeared quite late, as did the closing period or full stop. I had the greatest difficulty with the title which changed many times.


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