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Sketches in Andalucía

Mountain Drive at Night

The horses stand lop-limbed and grey in the depth of the night.
They graze at the summits of mountain passes
where pasture is scabby and where few come.

Their heads, attentive for a moment to our lights,
their hollow sides, the angles of their bones, are ancient.
These harsh lines were drawn in ochre on cave walls.

Their silence and stillness are deeper than to be dazzled
by bright velocity which races where the years have stayed.

Stones at Ronda la Vieja

Some centuries ago, men gathered up these stones
in great white heaps, to clear a field.

Some centuries before, the Romans came
to slaughter and subject
and when the necessary blood had stained the ground
to sit back on this height, survey this new patch of their map,
these miles of blonde dry earth and olives, sunlit empty distances.

What had they come to conquer?

Still, they sharpened swords, bred exiles, built a theatre.
We send our speeches to the tiers of seats
where grass cushions a long play.
The fashioned stones repeat. We speak again. Repeat.

A man has stopped two horses and a wooden plough
between the dry earth and the damp, halfway along a furrow.
He is absent.  Noon and silence.  Staring at the ground, the horses,
patient, motionless,
attend the man’s return
to haul his brief damp trail through broken Roman stones.

New Calf

You wonder how, two hours ago
such a beast of muscle and bone
got out of his mother
without gashing her wider.

She leans her long side against the wall
breathing and resentful.
Afterbirth, membrane and blood
hang to the ground.

She wishes no more of this burden.
When he leans under to suck,
unpractised, he bites.
She kicks with her knee.

The farmer interposes his morality
thumps the cow
holds the calf’s head so he sucks gently.

Her eyes are large with the indignity.

Audio file

Listen to these poems — read by Peter Hetherington