Reflections on a Memoir

In the book, the terrorists I feared
are freedom fighters.  The daily killings
were unavoidable.  Children mutilated
by grenades are air-brushed out.
Spite-driven betrayal of neighbours
is never even touched on.

This is the island deep in kindness,
deep in cruelty, where I grew up;
but the greeting ‘Go towards the Good’
did not bless my friend shot in the back,
or her sister reeling in pain, pursued
by gunmen down a sunlit shopping street.

The foreign minister’s much praised memoir
tells less than half the story.
There was no war even,
only a necessary struggle for power;
and sixty years on there is still no war,
yet still no peace.



Air vibrates to engine throbs
as, one by one, sardine boats
sweep from the harbour mouth
past jagged rocks, deep into night.

Beyond a luminous sea, clouds
tumble around a sinking sun.

On a rocky island near to shore
a fifth-century Irish priest
sought refuge.

Tonight, watching the horizon melt,
I am aware of worlds beyond,
where Grecian marble lies uncut
and even Celtic saints are young.

It is hard to leave this place
where time and the world
ebb and flow.



Last night a tiger roared by the salt lick;
in daylight I see only cicadas and butterflies.
Climbing to the waterfall, I yearn to shed
my western skin, blend with the rainforest,
the cycle of decay and rebirth.

At a pool formed by crashing torrents
my guide kicks off her shoes and dives
cleaving through a glittering surface,
unhindered by hijab, trousers and her shirt.
I paddle gingerly, jeans rolled up.

‘Come and swim,’ she calls from underneath
tumbling water which frames her like a neriad.
Once, yes; now I simply listen to the symphony
of insects and absorb her primal joy.

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