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Category: Countryside

At the grave of James Hogg, The Ettrick Shepherd

Silent stone word carved
By church and heath
Says so little
Of the soul that lies
Under turf
And sky
What spark was lit
From that mortal frame
And raised
From lowly shepherd
So divine a voice
In this lonely place?

I feel a debt
Of thankfulness
And humility
To this kindred spirit
Whose majesty I feel
Reaching out
As I stand
Before the
Silent stone word carved

19/09/1998

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American Maize

“It’s not as good as ours” he said
We stand looking at new brought trailer load
Of Yankee maize viewed under azure sky
Got from a silo in the town
By road-sore tractor on road-sore roads
“No, it’s not as good as ours.
Look at all these husks and leaves.
I’ll have to get rid of them
Before I can mill them down.”
By I, he means, of course, They
Who long, hard labour for his pay
Whilst he and I sit in humble shade
And drink of coffee while they sweating sort
The useful from the dross in that heavy load
And feed the hungry maw of hammer mill
With maize from foreign, far off land.
He gazes at the work and load
“No, no it’s not as good as ours” he says

24/04/1998

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A life reborn (Some thoughts at Tushielaw)

Eagles cry, eagles haunt
Above moorland
Of grouse
And heather
And life
Myriad sheep trod paths
Lead me deeper
Into this delightful, deceptive freedom
On the edge
Of my existence
Fresh, cold, sharp winds
Buffet me
And roar
Deep gullies
In my soul
Cutting deep
They wound
And cleanse
And drive cobwebs
Long grown
From my being
And once again
I am me
And I am free

18/09/1998

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Heat Haze

Beneath a sky cast sapphire blue
By a stand of lonely blue gum trees
Some cattle gather shaded from incessant heat
Still they stand, panting statues
Except for ears flicking flies away
Across the red dust dry veld
A dust devil whirls tall
Past shimmering, stuttering skull white houses
Hurling papers and bits
In an impotent rage against the hot hard ground
From the distance the sound of a tractor ploughing
Deep furrows in a deeper landscape
For mealies
Or sorghum
I sit out on the stoep this African afternoon
And view, through pipe smoke haze
The distant koppies and blood red ground
Of a Western Transvaal
Held in heats oppressive grip
I drink my fill
Of homemade pineapple beer
Chilled in a glass filled with ice
And gaze serenely on this placid place
Unable to move or think or talk
Wet with sweat my clothes cling
To a glistened body tanned brown
By sun and wind and work
But not today

22/04/1998

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View from a window

Sun setting
Behind hills of brown
Crows fly
Crows cry
Beneath greying clouds
The old shepherds road
Lies empty now
A home for thistle
And heather
And memories
A burn peat stained
Chases down
Steep gullies
Over rocks and tumbles
To darkening river below
And flows sludge slow
Under stone still bridge
Past field
And bank
To forest shadowed
All is quiet now
The still of dusks deep desire
For peace
And solitude
And death
Of day
And birth
Of night

19/09/1998

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