Thursday, September 18, 2008

Glencoe




The treacherous snow swept
into the Glen of Poets,
came in trust to rest
upon their unsuspecting thatch.

Can snow cut?
When snow dons the King’s red coat,
it can.
When Campbells emerge
out of a merciless dawn,
it can.
Your eyes cling to the unkind cliffs
and you know..
it can.

Air should be crisp, but
this air hangs like a dead hand.
All doors are tightly shut,
which once were open to all.
Windows stare back sightless.
Lights have been expelled.
The mountainsides, which echoed with voices,
are filled with the moaning of many winds.
Air should heal
but this air scars.

I have not been to Glencoe for a few years, but even just driving through I am always struck by the atmosphere of the place, even on a bright sunny day. In how many places like this, all over the globe, have the 'King's men' left their mark? The painting is by John Blake McDonald c1879, held by the Royal Scottish Academy.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Qasr




I built a home with my own hands,
Fitting each rock with infinite care,
Willing walls to rise out of the earth,
The womb of their own hillside.

And as I worked I felt the free air
Teasing my skin and I measured the worth
Of each day’s work and sensed the bird of pride
Fluttering somewhere deep inside.

I planted my children here.
It’s their voices you can hear,
Wheeling like swallows round the olive trees,
No trace of the fear
To come, no hint of smoke on the evening breeze,
When we scrambled up to the roof,
To stand gawping at the moon as she winked upon the seas.

From where did the swarms of locusts come?
Why do they now feast unchecked upon our shame?
Their concrete nests rise up on hills with new names.
The wadis are reeking, choked with their scum.
Their yellow legs appear at every turn.
Beneath each ugly cloud, our land begins to burn.

You see this picture from afar
And turn to face the other way.
Why let our misery intrude
When you’re so sure
All locusts are secure,
Not heading west, then north
Arriving unannounced
Out of the haze of judgement day?

Abigail and Jason spent last week with me and they brought me a copy of 'Palestinian Walks' by Raja Shehadeh, which I immediately read from cover to cover and which inspired the above poem.