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‘In Djibouti…’ and ‘Angel of Hulme’



In Djibouti…

you must wear shoes,
if you have some,
to cross the bladed lava.

There, where all motion’s
burnt out,
taken from the flowing rock,
they’ve left discarded plimsolls
shredded rubber —
green stripes
fading by the desert road.

There’s a water bottle, too,
left on a hillside —
the crater rim, where the view
of the salt lake
whips into your eyes.

But in any case,
what could they possibly have left —
to carry —
after walking from Ethiopia?

Would they have seen,
along the way,
how there’s one island for the devil
and another for his wife?

would they have taken
a broken-topped volcano stone –
impertinently offered –
capable of holding
only one small truth?
Would they have seen
that dark star in the egg?
Did it split open, too,
for a line of thin men,
drowning in thin air?

Did they notice, too,
how there’s no way back, here –
no return
to all these footprints?

There’s a man,
a woman,
a child,
stuck fast –
still too far south
for any Gate of Tears.

But on they walk —
still walking —

still walking from Ethiopia.


Angel of Hulme.

SHE STOOD AT the top of all there was to see:
a heap of ruins, recollections
strewn debris.

Angel of Hulme — destructor, redemptor –
on a pile of system-built, crumpled concrete,
a pedestal of rusting rebar, powdered brick.
That calming wing, though —
a Crescent, suggesting flight —
and that oratory — so hated in dark salients —
the knife point of a beginning,
scratching along the wall.

Live in a moment, then, you say,
realising the colossal failure of all this —
of all this always-now, time after time.
This strange ourobouros
with the phatic promise of the zealot
the indecent suggestion of the martyr
the bad joke of the memoirist.
Don’t speak to me again,
for I’m sick of all this death,
of its crying, laughing face,
of the rattle — throat rattle —
and such a moving tribute to a life

sucked up, lived out amongst the warrens,
festering far
from the open air
now playing on your wings.

There’s the memory, too
— always ready to eat you up —

again after time
time after,

Jonathan Gorvett is a journalist and writer who has spent many years as an international correspondent, with a particular focus on the Middle and Near East. He currently resides on Cyprus.

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