On being silent

On being silent023.JPG


I read to people in large rooms

but I can’t hear myself

I feel constrained

my words seem distant

somehow empty

echoing in an empty room

I feel I’m of another time

a sense of regret

I accepted silence for too long

and now feel that I should return

to a world of silence again.

A shepherd has read

a poem I wrote about him

and now looks at me with a new eye

there is a warmth

that I have honoured him

I am someone who has troubled

to write about him

and given importance to his life.

He said quietly that he took time

to read my words

and smiled.


For William.


Fantalle Mountain.JPG


This morning I stopped

to listen to a robin singing

in the tall birch tree

that overhangs our garden.


It is mid-August in Wales

but the robin’s singing

was the wistful and shrill

notes of an October song.


And it’s on cold clear

mornings like this

that I am reminded

of a small town

called Matahara

in the Rift valley

A lorry stop

on the badly cambered

rutted out road

from Addis to Djhibuti.


And of staying overnight

in the old school

over-shadowed by the cauldera

of Mount Fantalle


And woken by the sounds

of camels and the shouts

and whistles of men

returning safely again

from the long search

for nourishing pasture

emerging through

the rising dust

that shrouded and gauzed

the clear light of morning.


The sight of a man

running and carrying

a new born camel

on his shoulders.


And the sounds

of the joy of children

welcoming the men

their fathers, uncles

and brothers safely

back to their homes


All this will stay with me

for the time allowed

as I hear that the rains

have failed again.




Published in “Uncertain Times” Octavo Press 2016.

A blue dark shawl

Camels posing again.JPG

A dark blue shawl


The evenings grow

Dark and cold

Even though

Its midsummer

So I gather

An Ethiopian shawl

Round my shoulders.

I feel weariness strain

In my neck and arm

And the need to rest

But the struggle continues

To keep this openness

To listen and hear

And remember

What we learned

From another

People and place

That will remain

Forever close

To my heart.


Karrayyuu people

We cross arms.

People are suffering


I have to be careful what I write

What words I use

I must avoid names

I must not name names

It would be like a death sentence

In this country

Mineral rich land

Is given away

To a foreign power

For a few pennies

This power from across the seas

Needs land to feed

Its own people

It needs food security

But here the people

Who have roots in this earth

Are told to leave the land

So that plantations of sugar cane

Can be grown

Or other crops

To be sent across the sea

To feed other people

And if the people protest

They will be brutalised

Or worse

Rape is a weapon

In this war

And a silence rules

The country

Rock stars

Wearing sun glasses

See nothing

Or if they do

They say nothing

But tell the same story

Over and over again

Of how they saved

The people from drought

And meanwhile

The people are down trodden

In this jewel of Africa.

I cannot name names

That would be dangerous

For the people

That is the way with tyrants

The world over

People cross arms

In a sign of defiance

People are suffering.