Posts tagged ‘Europe’


The Ottoman and the Atheist (A 19th Century Riddle)


Between the trees a light breeze blew,

A gentle ripple shivered leaves.

It seemed the trees had never moved,

Their roots held deep in solid ground.


It seemed the breeze was passing through:

Once here then on. It barely touched

The earth at all, it had no weight.

The trees were real, the breeze a myth.


And from the breeze the stories grew,

And from the trees the tales were true.

In time the trees and breeze would change:

The breeze grew leaves, the trees took flight.


It seemed the breeze had never moved.

It seemed the trees were passing through.




A Week in Slovenia (Part 5 – Just Passing Through)


1. In the Lobby of a Hotel, Kranjska Gora, May 2013


Are we between the wars again?

Or back when Empires froze and stared

At mountains barely understood?

We take “the tour”, we are the world,


And then that gap has opened up.

There’s knowledge here no one can know:

Israeli cases, linen suits,

A sporting team, some Irish girls


(Who laugh, then buy too many drinks).

We all look lost, but some breeze through.

The world we are will shift and twist,

And leave us clinging to our pasts.


We see ourselves one step removed.

We pass our evening sharing time.


2. Listening to an Israeli Tour Group


I roll in music born of tongues,

The beauty of the unheard sounds,

The meanings gleaned from rise and fall,

The other worlds I cannot know.


A flow of fear and joy combined,

A mystery from a mythic prose:

There’s sun in there and lemon groves,

There’s salt and desert, birth and dreams,


And then the stillness when they leave,

Their final rumble lingers on.

I hear the echoes down the hall:

A question mark which breaks through song.


Whatever place the words come from,

The human voice always belongs.



3. Borders


One border is a mountain range,

An earthquake shattered caravan,

A sheer drop of broken seas:

We stand outside its distant age.


Another border has its plaques,

It hides in parks and deep in books,

It towers like the end of time:

We cannot touch its heroes here.


The final border has no words.

It creeps out from the forest edge,

It fights for life with every breath:

Its meaning is its force within.


We cross a line and sense a change:

The air is clear, the buildings strange.



4. New Europeans


The rain falls straight from limestone clouds.

She huddles tight beneath the roof

And stares at puddles, danced with drops.

The bus will come in half and hour.


In other years the water fell

On streets she felt she knew too well.

But now they melt around her feet,

Their patterns seem an old deceit.


Across the street another bus

Takes other people to the north –

Frustrated, tired and seeking truth,

Or work (whichever comes by first).


The rain falls straight, there is no wind.

The bus will come in half an hour.




A Week in Slovenia (Part 1 – Flight Path)


1. Terminal Three


How many nations can I see?

The beautiful and elegant,

The tattooed men and sleeping girls,

The drone of talk, the hum of planes,


(An aircon migraine coming on),

An altered world of wait-then-move,

A place where hats are worn indoors.

There is no smell. We wait, we move.


The people twitch and spark with life,

They watch for signs, they read the eyes:

An underscore of doubt and fear,

An overtone of joys postponed.


Here sound and light have coalesced.

Here everyone seems somewhere else.



2. In Flight


We know outside this metal skin

We’d die before we took a breath.

A wind beyond our earth-tied ken

Would rip our lungs and heart apart.


The red and green of near sleep,

Of drifting in a patterned haze.

A droning engine lulls our eyes,

Our senses mingle with the skies.


We plunge, we sleep, whichever comes.

We roll and tip out from the edge.

Adrift are certainties and hopes:

Out there the heedless rush of clouds.


The end of everything is air:

Just half a foot and we’ll be there.



3. Air Flow


Beneath us now there may be sea,

There may be history, may be land.

We are above, we are beyond:

A netherworld of curvatures.


We are the Europe – light on wings –

Where sun and moon are never dimmed,

A floating swirl of immigrants,

Where every heart is foreign born.


The clouds stretch on to Belarus

In fragile mountains, streams of breath.

Beneath are curious, earthbound things

With buried feet and downward eyes.


Our continent is shrinking fast,

It’s upside down, it never lasts.


4. Turbulence


It stopped

……………..and for an instant




a sound not far frOM God rang out

it COULD have been my heart or



………….have been a passing

it could                                           breath


a rainbow MADE of solid air

a story told by broken WINGS


….thought of


………………………………….something missed

or mayBE just my final spark


The sky had claimed another prayer

Another slip in time again

The fraud

…………….of flight EXPOSED by clouds


a                      enemy of



I quickly learnt the simple


I’m made for walking on the Earth.


Three Colours: Blue


The beads of simple, tinted glass:

Between each one the links of loss.

The music of their chimes when touched:

The glittered schisms, splitting light.


Each facet shines with bitter dreams.

Each angle cut betrays a past,

A slight, a trap, a loveless chill,

And yet a life which always was.


The threads which bind are rarely seen.

Beneath the beat, a universe;

Between the beads and solid earth

The scattered force of freedom’s cost.


The grief which comes with cutting loose

The bluest segments of the sky.



Response to the film Three Colours: Blue.


Walking to Walter Benjamin’s Grave (Walk No. 8)


These fossilised, volcanic screams

They marked the very edge of life.

One side: the town with bullet holes.

The other: gravestones marble bleached.


And where the trains came rumbling through

The weight of Europe bowed the fence,

A force unseen which broke the necks

Of every dove that ever crossed.


And dancers lost their footing there,

And slumped into the waiting tombs,

And poets closed their pocket books,

And burnt their evidence of dreams.


The morphine killed the pain and fear,

But hope has ways to keep you here.