Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Three Poems for Geoff from around the World

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Three Poems for Geoff from around the World

Article excerpt

Birds of East Africa

Bujumbura, Burundi

In the walled garden, five guinea fowl spread out

in line across the lawn like beaters at a Victorian

shooting party, until one looks aside, and halts -

three others group around with squawks and calls,

they appear to exchange wicked gossip about the fifth;

five elderly ladies out on errands, in grey dresses

with white polka dots, heads nodding and weaving

as they chatter through tall flowers to the pool fence -

with a hop and a flap of wings, they land on the handrail,

perch unsteadily, plump round bundles nattering,

chattering, and mewling to each other beneath

the shadowy trees in the fading light -

it's not just that they resemble old ladies or ragbags,

but that, exotic as they may be, they serve as reminders

of the familiar, to soften the view of walls, gates, spikes,

and razor-wire against future uncertainties.

Not Quite the Outback

Queensland, Australia

After driving for two days west and north,

we passed yet another

'Gateway to the Outback',

where the grass was burnt

bleached beige and white,

trees were silver grey grotesques,

where occasional trustful cows

still gathered in the one tree shade,

or noiselessly grazed where no grass grew -

I waited for homesteads called 'Heartbreak' .

At empty crossroads stood pub-hotels,

where bored barmaids

tided over white afternoons

with simple crosswords - a clue an hour;

where a clutch of seasoned men

chased whisky with beer,

laughed over threadbare jokes,

and bandied slander and stale dreams -

I began to fear what more

the outback might offer. …

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