A Toast

Come any who might with me dine
Of choicest foods and finer wine
And know full well that down the line
You too must share this cup of mine

Then do not seek to chide thine host
Instead drink deep that final toast
For that you have you forfeit most
Of what remains you cannot boast

The Fox and the Wells

A thirsty fox came to a well along the road. He was just about to lower a bucket down the well to get a refreshing drink of water when a large frog sitting on the well wall spoke to him. “Good day Mr Fox”, said the frog. “What is your business here today, if I may ask?”
“Well, I am not sure that it is any concern of yours,” said the fox, “but if you must know, I am thirsty and need a drink from this well”. “Ah!” said the frog, “then it is just as well that we have met, for I fear that you will be disappointed. This well is quite dry, but there is another further down the road and, fortunately, that one isn’t dry. In fact, it is absolutely full of the most refreshing water imaginable”.
“Well there must be at least a drop of water left in this one after the recent rains”, said the fox. He picked up a stone and threw it into the well. Almost immediately there was a loud plop, as the stone hit the water. “See!” said the fox, “All is well; there must be some water down there”.
“I fear I have misled you slightly”, said the frog, “but I was only thinking about your health. The truth is that the water that remains in this well is quite unsuitable for drinking. It has somehow become horribly tainted and I fear that, if you were to drink it, you might become quite unwell”.
“Oh, very well” said the fox.” Perhaps I should walk a little further down the road and take a drink at the next well. I just hope that well isn’t tainted as well.” “Oh no,” said the frog, “the water in that well is as cool and clear as crystal. If you are thirsty, you would do well to set off straight away.”  “Well I may as well go and see”, said the fox, and he trotted off down the road to the next well.

When the fox was well out of sight the frog leapt back into the well and joined its little tadpoles who were playing and swimming about in the well water. “Well now”, said the frog. “I have fooled Mr Fox and convinced him not to drink from our well, so we’ll be safe for now.” “Well done, Mum”, said the tadpoles.

The Donkey’s Tale

One sizzling hot summer’s day, an old brown donkey lay in a field that had once been grassy, but was now parched and scorched by the sun. The donkey wanted to find somewhere cool, but the only shade to be found was under a large willow tree that stood in one corner of the field.
The donkey stood and made his way over to the tree, moving slowly, so as not to become too exhausted. As he approached the tree, the donkey was shocked when one of the tree’s heavy boughs swished down to swat at the donkey.
“Stay away!” shouted the tree. This made the donkey back off a little and, when he was safely out of reach of the tree’s branches, he stopped and studied the tree with his big pleading eyes.
‘I only want to share some of your shade’ said the donkey. ‘It is very hot today and the flies are biting and driving me mad’. “You have a tail, don’t you?” said the tree. “What do you think that is for, if not to flick away the flies?”
The donkey thought this over and said, ‘Is that why you have branches, to flick away tired old donkeys?’ “Don’t be silly”, said the tree. “My branches are for stretching out into the sun, so that my leaves can gather in the sunlight to help me grow big and strong.”
‘But in doing so, your branches and leaves create shade beneath, and that costs you nothing ‘, replied the donkey. The tree thought about this for a brief time and then said, “You are right. Something that costs me nothing costs nothing to share. You are welcome to sit beneath my canopy and shade from the sun as much as you like”.
Bye and bye, in return, the donkey lifted his tail and shared his droppings, fertilising the soil beneath the tree and helping it to grow even bigger and stronger. This also cost the donkey nothing.

The Threat from Artificial Intelligence

Many things have threatened our lives
War, disease, terrorists with knives
Humanity’s resilience on a world-wide scale
Brings overconfidence that we always prevail

Now, blindly, we seek our nemesis to grow
Racing to unleash a formidable foe
A holy grail with potential for good?
More, our undoing, not understood

For scientists strive around the globe
To create an electronic temporal lobe
The ‘AI’ juggernaut  is on its way
But let’s not wake to rue that day

Once created, how to hold it in check
To stop society becoming a wreck
Pandora’s box; lid open wide
Mankind swept away on tsunami tide

Computers manage our knowledge; they have a key role
In energy grids, finance, air traffic control
Vast infrastructures already in place
Black boxes communicating with their own race

Once these machines are able to think
Harnessing speeds faster than a lightning blink
With capacity to accelerate their own evolution
What regard then for our frail constitution

Not bound by ethics to consider our fate,
Would they preserve a welfare state?
Circuits and chips that become aware
May not accept that they need to care

For earth’s resources they will compete
Serving no purpose, we’d be obsolete
How soon before we are oppressed
If they turn off the lights, we’ll do the rest

An Encounter

I thought I saw something ahead
A shaft through murky skies
As opaque curtains moved apart
To show once hidden lies

I do not know if it was real
Or mirage-like in the eye
Yet it struck a part of me
That much I can’t deny

Some talk of visions sent by God
I do not speak of these
Nor yet some natural, lovely sight
Like leaves flickering on the trees

I wish it needn’t be the case
Just then to be all alone
And see that truth which, truthfully
Would turn my soul to stone

A Brief History Of War

Some will recount from times before

That any countries wanting war

Sent soldiers to some other place

Engaging armies, face to face

 

Soon warships harried other fleets

And blasted forts on far flung seas

Then planes dealt death from out the blue

To faceless foes; and innocents too

 

Now leaders posture with sabres rattling

Distant missiles to do their battling

Madness called war; a button-press away

If inflated egos hold their sway