Dream of freedom

Part One: Drought

Cyrene’s slopes are draped
with marble pillars
fallen columns cross the paths
and grass grows free of traffic

a tiled bath drained of water
flashes blue with lapis lazuli
before the ruined base
of the temple to Artemis

fleecy seed heads float
among the long shadows
of Corinthian pillars
white and ghost-like

the cadence of a horn
sounds the evening fall
its trembling prayer
washing down the valley

sighing in the wind
to halt the suffocation
its ululating tongue sings
for the fissured land

Beyond the amphitheatre
a camel lies in coma
poisoned by a silver leaf whose
yellow flower withered after spring

the old lore of sacrifice
washes through her dream;
red and brutal sacrificial blood
floods and rages there

she must sleep on
to death’s last ambush,
dreaming of the coming winter
and winter’s rain

Part Two: Nightmare

Her shortening breath flounders
lodged in inflamed lungs
and the shepherd’s horn is still

At nightfall, the camel draws
away from the struggle
straining to the tread of

a gazelle halting at the glade’s edge
turning to the sea
with the desert at its hind quarters

It scents the brine and bridles
pulled by the tug of thirst
and bleats:

I have come from where nothing grows
along the tracks of dry stream beds
that wave their ribbons of lost hope
fleeing to a salty sea

On cracked earth forking this way and that
a crazed path takes me to a hillside
where a man is bound to a petrified tree
naked on a hillside.

Dogs growl and snarl around him
snatching at his kneecaps.
Through the night he groans
fading into dawn’s mist.

His pitted flesh leans there
into sand-gritted wind.
He seeks my touch
but I must run.

Leaping on
drawing breath
from the blue edge
of a crescent headland
the gazelle quenches its thirst
in a salt swell
with throat salt-encrusted
blood dried and curdled

The camel has a vision
and shudders in her shelter
under the canopy
of green oleander
a fennec fox glides
over the stone wall
and scents the body
lying in the dust

Sifting through the dust
it finds the camel’s eye
staring under drowsing lashes.
The camel stirs and
thinks the pointed face
is the maddened prisoner
his face scored with tears
that drip a soundless protest:

I answer ’no’
for that is all I have
that is still mine.

I spoke of love
and hate received
from men who feared Reason

No is what I am
No is the action I carry
No is the people you would have me name
No is the plot you say was mine
No is the death you have prepared for me
No is the succumbing to that end.

Part Three: Rain at last

Large drops pressed the dust
plunged the riven cracks
and bounced on iron furrows.
Rain pummelled the earth
into putty softness
carving a corkscrew channel
in a drowning hill.

Red water turned and turned
its watery blades pounding
off-loading loam into the bay.
On the rushing hillside
lay the camel waking;
the flood dividing at her shelter
she heard its roar.

In the orchard of pomegranate
in a rain vast valley
the almond tree cracked.
Rain chiseled a path
with measured pouring
along split boughs
and peeling bark
into red mud earth.

Torrents rumbled the fall
of a sliding surface
that moved into the sea.
Unhinged in bleached memory
the camel waded
through white spaces
of whitening fear.

Witness, camel, how painful
the dying of the prisoner now
in the tumultuous cries
of day’s arrival
how painful the passing away
in the sensational morning
that follows night.

Part Four: Aftermath

A father kneels in new grass
on flowers petal-crushed
and whispers his despair
in supplication over each shoulder.

A mother turns to the tall cypress
in her grief-frozen distance
she reaches for the sky
and birds in flight

A wife gathers her children
consoling and holding them
and their shock stands still
at the centre of embrace.

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