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March 21, 2023

I. Tea Plantation

The pickers have long fled south, to bivouacs
that drip with cold; the geometry of tea
subverted where muhuti and flame trees
break cover, watching over weeds and vines.

Hyrax scurry from their burrows. Leopards
have returned to where they never knew.
Cranes circle high above the miracle
of sunbirds drawing nectar, motionless,
from coral and jewels they’d never have found before.

Black kites regard the rebel bands in tired
fatigues and rubber shoes, who thread their quiet
patrols on paths they’ve reimposed on the faintest
traces of a matrix overgrown.

II. Seat of power

And far away, where warlords feasted long
ago, and made their will known to the men
they charged to make it so—and where a king
was killed—the broken masonry is mocked

by oak and birch. A cenotaph’s obscured
by briars among which feral goats and cattle
browse—and dogs in sunken doorways wait
in ambush to reduce those herds to blood
and bones they’ll bare their teeth and battle for.

The dogs are watched in turn from shadowed vantage
points by scouts who’ve travelled from their sundered
homes across a narrow, hostile sea
in search of knowledge of what happened here,
to send back to their camps among the dunes.

This poem was included in Kent & Sussex Folio #76 in 2022. It is part of what I hope will be published as a new collection, of poems exploring the interactions between conflict, peace and place: Guerrilla Country.

(The Muhuti tree is Erythrina abysynica)

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