north-west on the road to Warakurna
a substantial range of mountains
where no mountains should be
I can't believe they will break up
drift away    dissolve in air –
my first sight of a fata Morgana   home
of King Arthur's shape-changing sister

unlike the pools on the road
when as a kid I followed the sheep
–I knew there could be no water
however real it looked –
nor my first sight of Aurora Australis
those colourful searchlights beamed
into the sky    a  wild sunset excess
the shock is closer to that moment
in Science class when I learnt
my solid desk
was         mostly         space




            for Susan Hampton

yes, the Book of Revelation holds rich and powerful metaphors
just not for me
at ten, I cowered in my sleepout bed peeking in terror
from under the sheets
lest Jesus
appear in clouds over Bald Hill
metal feet, eyes of fire, sword in the mouth
or as a seven-eyed seven-horned lamb.
when thunder roared I counted six for safety

the war began, the Middle East a battle zone
the place for Armageddon
our minister was sure The End was Nigh:
expert on God and War an ambulance orderly
in the Flanders mud
he knew that 666 meant Hitler

peace came but no Jesus or Armageddon
I left the sleepout and our country town
taking the metaphors with me: a fiery mountain
in a bloody sea
locusts with a scorpion's power
the scarlet woman drunk with blood

these days I prefer plain words




those upturned bowls of earth the Nine Barrows
(where  the dead lie)
are still unploughed  after three thousand years

we count eight green mounds surrounded by gentle moats
and outer banks where cows graze –
someone had no fear of gods

we order pickled eggs & garlic mushrooms
in the nearest pub
must eat them in a gale outside because a child is with us

legend says the boy Jesus once lived in this village
if he came again to this pub in wild weather
how would they deal with him?

                                                            Priddy, Somerset

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