• DEIR EZ-ZOR

    All the world is sleeping - hush!
    Four rivers of Eden;
    Hiddekel, Pison, Gihon, Euphrates.
    Adamu's garden, a woman picking fruit
    in the cool of evening,
    unfathomed darkness of stars.

    Four rivers of Al Jazirah;
    Colap, Kharbur, Al Furat, Nahr Dijla.
    Ashurbanipal's garden, orchard and well,
    maiden awaiting her lover's sweet song.
    Did he arrive? Shrikes are hunting
    through the olive groves, spearing
    nightingales on branches.

    Jahannam's four rivers;
    salt-tears, urine, diarrhoea, blood.
    Zeki Bay's garden of knives.
    Women cooking grass. Children
    licking moisture from stones.... more »

  • FASAYIL

    Yes, I remember Fasayil
    the dirt-track's hanging gate
    a shanty of tents and mud-brick shacks
    annexed to the Jewish State.

    Melon fields of blinding light
    and sentried ranks of palms,
    Tomer's barbed-wire cash-crops,
    Fasayil's destitute farms.

    The drudgery of those melon fields
    was relieved by the company
    of my smiling Bedouin workmates
    exiled and refugee.

    Yet I refused an invitation
    to dine with them in their homes,
    not because the Arabs will eat your heart
    and make bread with your bones,

    but because a Brooklyn accent
    said this is the West Bank guys
    and those that eat with Arabs
    are terrorists and spies.

    Shabbat shalom on Tomer
    grilled steaks and Maccabi beer
    ‘Dance Rock' and the Kids from Fame,
    Sharon and Shamir.

    Yes, I remember Fasayil
    where I learned good men are meek,
    and collude with power against the poor,
    the dispossessed and weak.... more »

  • INTERHAMWE

    Please allow me to introduce myself,
    I'm a man of wealth and taste.

    The werewolf seems more were than wolf.
    He's a nice guy, plausible. He's a giver.
    He gives us permission. He's a liberator.
    He frees us from guilt. He knows we're all sinners.
    He forgives us, and we know it's alright
    to forgive ourselves. He touches our hearts,
    and we're called forth to testify, holding hands
    with our glassy-eyed sisters and brothers.
    You're never alone. You're one with those
    who work together, a team. Were and wolf:
    twin creatures of the pack.
    St. Brice's Day,
    Oxenford. Infesting the streets like cockles
    among the corn, we took scythes to the plague
    of Danish tares. The King decreed it; his people
    made it happen.
    Clifford's Tower, with clubs
    and staves. The Jews killed Christ, were rich
    and stand-offish. Our reward was release and carnival.
    It doesn't feel wrong when everyone's doing it.
    At St. Martin's Vintry, a Kentish ploughman
    suggested the shibboleth. Jack Straw brought the axes.
    The English insisted on English bread and cheese.
    ‘Case en brode' was the best the Flemings could do.
    They lost their heads. Wheat and chaff, sheep and goats,
    us and them. Team-building via pogrom.
    But teams get results: hit sales targets,
    build bridges from cardboard and paper clips;
    go out on the piss and wreck the Jade Palace.
    Fifteen yeomen in ripped St. George
    bellowing the National Anthem. Brings a tear
    to your eye. Makes you want to tear heads off.
    My work here is done.... more »

  • JOHN BALL

    Wycliffe's words and Langland's gave the Englisc
    back their tongue. Manor french and church latin,
    cut-off in the throat, battening behind
    the buttresses of keeps and cathedrals,
    parsing and declining. Johon Schepe
    proclaims his hedgerow gospel, singing
    from the furze like a yellowhammer:
    Johan the Mullere hath ygrounde smal, smal, smal.
    The Kynges sone of hevene schal pay for al.
    Be war or ye be wo; Knoweth your freend
    fro your foo. Haveth ynow, and seith ‘Hoo!'
    There were no lords in Eden's commune.
    Scythes sharpened on whetstones, gente non sancta.
    War will follow the Word.... more »

  • MATINS: ANNUNCIATION

    Force eight from Lundy and the Irish Sea
    in the dark moon of the solstice.
    Alarmed awake at midnight, sleet slashing
    across the window glass, blurring the street-lit world.
    Packing the van in drenched Jack Pyke:
    Lazerlight lamp-kit, slip-leads, dogs.
    The long drive east to the ditch-cut flatlands.
    Sleet strafing down. Wind howling in the hawthorns.
    Shivering long-dogs, ears erect. The thousand foot
    halogen beam. Green-eyes in hedge-bottoms.
    Transfixed conies. Dogs running down the beam.
    Conies dangling in the Deben double V.
    Back to the van. Bag the necked and bladdered conies.
    Towel and box the dogs. Peel off the drenched Jack Pyke.
    The cold drive home in the dark moon of the solstice,
    sleet slurring the view through the wiping-windscreen,
    blurring the headlamped world.... more »

  • MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL

    Little John's Well at Stubbs dried up
    as limestone quarrying behind the scarp
    progressively destroyed the water table.
    Dry years, as earth-locked rain burrowed
    and bored in the bones of Barnsdale, before breaking
    to the light in a winter-wheat field,
    east of the Ea Beck bridge. Soon, rags were tied
    to streamside trees and silver sown
    in the muck's bright mirror. An underground
    tradition, like midrash or the cult of saints,
    bubbling forth like a rolling boil:
    one harrowing hell with the corpse
    of Moses, under the guns of Randi
    and Dawkins, the canons of the Church.... more »

  • WORK

    Cutting in the cane fields
    or hacking back scrub,
    it was something we were used to:
    after all, we were farmers.

    We'd gather every morning
    before setting out,
    then cutting all day
    in the jungle and marshes.

    We'd come back exhausted,
    well worthy of beer
    and brochettes. Our wives
    turned their backs in bed.

    In those days was beef
    and ribsteak in plenty.
    We bore the knives ourselves:
    slaughtering, jointing.

    We feasted like the elegant kings
    to whom were given
    such bloody instructions
    they jumped to the life to come.... more »