Desert Dust started out as a poem about Spain as part of a sequence originally published in Fire Magazine read here:
4. BRIDGE OF STONE
Five years ago we slid across this bridge at dawn
after a long hot drive from Barcelona.
I kept waking up on the back seat to see factories
flaring orange against the black hills.
As we entered Zaragoza I saw the basilica lit up
by floodlights that caught the dust swirling in from the desert.
I woke with that dust in my teeth, sweating
whilst you lay there perfectly cool and calm.
We carry our countries in our blood, habits, instincts
that carry us back to the same places in our dreams.
Now I catch you sleeping again; winter, the Ebro rising,
I’m not sweating but still the air here tastes different.
Every winter for five years we have swung back across the bridge
circling your past through the sparkle of christmas lights.
Words have crept into my vocabulary as I struggle with Spanish
but I still get caught like an uprooted tree on the double r’s,
tongue snagged against the bridge supports whilst you sail away
floating on the native rhythm of your language as I submerge.
I stare at the back of another car doused with torrents of rain
as tail-lights burn in the wet roads and palm trees swirl.
I stare at the roads as they flood easily,
a summer’s dust and dirt clogging the drains.
When we met I was washed away on a torrent of affection.
Now we stand on the bridge five years on
wind catching dust, staring into a flood that moves beneath us.
Then it shapeshifted into a lovely track by Diana Derby on the Trailer Star tribute
Now it here…..version numero 3 based on an Englishman’s attempt to deal with the Monegros desert….
It is said that this territory was once covered by dense forests through which squirrels could cross the country from one end to the other.
Now it is desert dust mostly….no squirrels
THE SPANISH SQUIRREL
Tributaries of Ebro splash through pines,
sand-filled water tumbling by roots
as winter sunlight, bright as an English spring,
dazzles through the Parque Grande fountains.
Re-treading your past like a pond-skater,
spinning around your city, dizzy with language,
I skitter past a bronze statue
of an open-mouthed singer I’ve never heard of.
Grass recovering from the last scorching summer
it is still the greenest space in your parched birthplace.
Spawned amidst a tangle of Thames Valley woods
where even in summer drenched fern steams
I find it hard to take in this dryness.
A dust-blown treelessness that surrounds us.
But amidst the burning sands and buckling rails
the white tracks of the possible extend links
that spread below our circling plane
like cow-spittle dripping away from the water-trough.
Below us sheep and goats cloud remote paths
and baking lorries glint on the auto-pista.
From up here the green of the river-plain
is as snicked and trim as any suburban privet.
Beyond the treeless desert and mountains
I think of that squirrel, caught mid-air forever,
(Fable has it that Spain was once so densely wooded that
a squirrel could cross the country jumping from tree to tree.)
FARM HAND’S RADIO
Poems 1996 – 2000 OXFORD
dedicated to Ivo Charles Belcher (1932-2004)