Bride of the desert
the indomitable town
Lost in history, I wander through a city that was fortified by King Solomon, raided by Mark Antony and ruled by Queen Zenobia who made it the capital of an empire, only to be captured herself and paraded through Rome in gold chains.
Civilisation upon civilisation are entombed within Tadmur; in a huge plain of carved stone blocks, massive columns arched in rows or standing alone, a Romanesque theatre, senate and baths, dominated by a great temple whose origin dates back four thousand years.
Due to a clever mistranslation from Arabic by the euro-centric traveller who ‘discovered’ Palmyra, the city also has a modern name.
Here for millennia, a tribe of Bedu have camped within the folds of these desert steppes and blackened Tadmur’s ruins with their camp fires, to trade camels or herd goats and sheep. Walking the divide between city, desert and the more fertile steppes, I search for their surviving descendants and find a black woven goat’s hair tent with its edges raised to capture a cooling breeze.
Hamed and his sons, huge and wary of foreigners, welcome me to sit within on carpets and then graciously serve dates with innumerable small glasses of tea. I indicate ‘enough’ in the traditional manner by rolling my right hand and the empty glass. Hamed continues to voice his concerns about the lack of feed for their sheep and the prices achieved at market. I readily succumb to several small cups of greenish Arabic coffee, before being allowed to take my leave.
For millennia the wealth of this city was based on tariffs levied on goods flowing out of the desert aboard swaying camel caravans. Today, these once proudly fierce tribal Bedu no longer breed, train or ride camels.
The Bedu greatly prize their reputation and the respect of their peers. Their traditions are the foundation of these small tribal communities and may predate Islam; a life now undermined by borders, nationalism, government settlement plans, conscription, war, television and tourism.
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Black torn empty shells
swept by Mount Lebanon’s shade
As I recall a haiku of ‘images’ of my very first journey to Damascus, from war-torn Beirut through the lushness of the Bekaa;
in the here and now
a dark suit and Mercedes
cross the Euphrates
Defence Minister, Rifaat al-Assad is in town with his fifty thousand strong Defence Companies, complete with tanks, planes and helicopters. A coup d’état is in progress to assure Rifaat’s succession to the Presidency of his older brother Hafiz al-Assad, now recovering from a heart attack.
Last year, Rifaat massacred some forty thousand Syrian citizens when he ordered the shelling of the city of Hama. Nobody in Damascus will be underestimating him.
All political and military power is in the hands of the al-Assads and key generals, who command the military and police. The majority of whom are of the Alawite minority Muslim faith from the rural districts near Latakia in the North. Before their revolution, governments came and went in weeks.
My friend Elias is allied to Rifaat’s cause, by simply doing business with the son. Now he and his family share the risks and dangers of this coup failing and stand to lose a fortune. Monies paid locally in Syrian pounds for goods delivered to government agencies.
Elias’s connection with Rifaat and Latakia, as well as his confident presence, humour and love of life, still allows us easy access to the Generals’ Club. Sadly, there is to be no table and floorshow, but a closed meeting with two senior Generals, where we learn that Hafiz has recovered enough to take charge and is now locked in discussions with his younger brother.
The decision is therefore made for us. We say our goodbyes and drive to Latakia.
On Sunday Elias meets his brothers, then with his family, we visit his parents small holding and enjoy a meal together. A wonderful fresh mezza that includes my favourite, courgettes stuffed with ground lamb and rice, in a yogurt sauce. Syrian food is amazingly healthy and my cuisine of choice.
It is a cloudless Monday morning, as I, Elias, his wife and children drive into the docks to board an old 46 foot motor cruiser. Huge cases are stowed as I make my inspection, then start the twin diesels and switch on the over-the-horizon radar. Our early departure is critical. We cast off and the Mate steers for the harbour entrance below the cliffs that guard it. As the Mediterranean lifts our bow in greeting, the disembodied voice of the Harbour Master tells us to return as we do not have permission to sail.
Ignoring the order, I increase our speed through the short choppy surf. We are sailing under the Greek Cypriot flag and in an hour I hope to be out of territorial waters. At 14 knots we are a slow target.
Fifteen nautical miles from the coast of Syria, I leave the mate to follow a bearing for Larnaca. Elias has opened a bottle of Black Label. I quaff a glassful.
Later noticing a noisy vibration and diagnosing a bent prop shaft, I shut down the starboard engine. Our speed is now a steady 8 knots, so I decide on a new heading to discern more quickly the shadow of the Cypriot coastline on the radar screen.
Midway, the mate and Elias begin babbling about a small vessel ahead and four separate armoured boxes encircling it. Ugly Israeli high speed gun boats or worse, Lebanese pirates. Should they board us and find stowed riches, we will be killed.
Leaving the Mate to maintain our course, I go on deck to play the ‘European Owner’. The vessel they have trapped is long and lean with three tall outboard motors but no crew are in sight. Leaving them astern, our choice of vessel now fully exonerated, I and Elias throw another whisky ‘down the hatch’.
With us holding the correct bearing, I ask Elias to wake me as soon as we near Cyprus. Feeling utterly exhausted I collapse into a bunk.
I wake unbidden, to find the Mate steering for the harbour entrance. Shouldering him aside, I spin the wheel to bring the vessel about. Shaking, I ask them why there are minarets on the ‘church’ and did they not notice our being observed from the top of the harbour's hillock, below which a fast patrol boat is anchored? The Mate sprints to the Greek Cypriot flag and is hugging it to his chest; Elias wisely prays.
I command the wheel as we motor directly away from the port of Famagusta and Turkish held Northern Cyprus. We later change bearing and pass tourist beaches, it is night fall before we moor-up in Larnaca.
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Later that same year I am called to a last urgent meeting in Cyprus with Elias. He calmly tells me that he will be arrested when he rejoins his family, who have returned to Syria. Elias asks me to take full control of his Cypriot Businesses, then returns home and ‘disappears’ with his brothers.
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Since sacking the two Arab General Managers when they tried to get control of the bank accounts, it has taken more than six months to locate the prison holding all the brothers. We obtain the release of all except Elias, who has been tortured. We then ‘purchase’ him the exclusive use of the Prison Governor's quarters and twenty four hour access for Elias’s family, nurses and doctors.
+ + + + +
Over the last two years, I have honoured my promises and expanded trade as far as Pakistan. Elias is still imprisoned.
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not a poet
of past loves
Overlooking the valley
The chasm between being asked and told
our need for sharing not telling
Love’s consideration and understanding
offering, giving never demanding
Watching the sunset
an erotic suggestion
needing cool sheets
resting upon a wet diamonte cloth a dew encrusted diamante goblet of sparkling bubbling classic champagne floating a jewelled ice berg the solitaire diamond encrusted the ring of Celtic gold thrice captured
indulged then held fast in your naked sleeping beauty - with visions of our night shared in driven imaginative love
the coloured reality of a nights unreality - soon both awake we will discover more
now we slip between reverie and gentle touch - this is our love in loves haecceity
within a darkened airy Bedouin tents comfort then thrice by the lonely beauty of the green oasis waves of guarding desert dunes beyond a mirage of dry high peaks here I await her dreaming heart
people of Tsul Kalu
came in peace
the central universe
Cherokee white elders
of time untime
Singing the death song
animal, plant, herb and tree
what is, will be
(The ancient Chinese were
the greatest astronomers.
Later in the 1400's their
massive treasure fleets
mapped the World
The Yuki, Navajo, Apache,
Yuchis, Ming Ho, Melungeons,
Shawnee (Oceanye Ho), Sioux,
Cree Ojibuwa and Moskoke
have Chinese ancestors
some claimed to be Chinese
European explorers told of
elders speaking Chinese
ancient Chinese artefacts
and wrecked junks seen
History as taught might
be but a fairytale)
My first inspiration was sex
passionate life squeezing screaming sex
the thumping wall musicality of sex
exhaustingly inventive sweaty and wet
I wanted to make it a senryu
but for duality the female characterisation
demanded two more lines
each extending to seven syllables
Arousing images captured her moaning
splashing loneliness in unusual collocation
I was first excited by the placement
of a hovering extended enjambement
to give life to my final line
whilst also considering the satisfaction
in using noisy mouthed rhythms
I believe I easily hid the wet aroused context
with a watery semantic field
suggesting she would choke and drown
So in my last line I had ‘pleasures’
as a cutting keriji to make clear
the dominating sexual context
having previously used
a preposition and determiner
to maintain duality
in windowed naked currents
then surfing vital wavelets
drowning screams - pleasures wet bite
I departed Tripoli early on the Thursday
the chauffeur meeting me at Heathrow
Deciding a long weekend was owed
I started to arrange a little romance
pondered on the detail and the where
We sped on into the Cotswold's
thoughts of gardened desert oasis said here
A surprise, hidden across fields in sheltering copse
the entrancing beauty of floating water lilies
of the temple for two on it's spreading pond
within the splendid wonder of a secret garden
locked in by romantic beech leafed escarpments
of Waterly Bottom with a nearby New Inn
But beaten by discerning honeymooners
the hamper and a beach would have to suffice
Winding the slow road took us South
stopping to picnic within Corfe Castle
later beached curves splashed in the sea
rock pools were explored under high cliffs
dinner for two enjoyed at the Grand Hotel
the beautiful view off to France or Swanage
Finally a large curious and dated room
and soft delights sweetened by Sahara oasis
I woke ice cold next to her wrapped warmth
The unexpected unfamiliar presence sat
staring coldly from within it's armchair
lit and wrapped in aged coloured silks
the cob webbed spectre wore a skull cap
it's eyed dry head followed my sitting up
watched as I bit into the flesh of my arm
salty blood informing me of a new reality
poking her side so droplets stained sheets
languorously she commented "Again?"
my mandarin robed Chinese departed
silently melting in untouchable darkness
Leaving teeth-a-chatter and a new spirituality
with a small hot hand moving touching
I reported on Sahara underground rivers
green gardened oasis and the part I had played
Congratulated, a secondment was mooted
to ensure payment of some outstanding loans
arrangements had already been put in hand
for me to take over some three businesses
based in Indonesia but firstly in Sumatra
later taking owner's responsibilities in Jakarta
They promised a principal Asian role to follow
I knew then their discussions already had result
in the visit of one parties honoured ancestor
Two years on in Indonesia and repayment made
Having helped make happen an increase in production
of archipelagos basic foods paddy and highland corn
through my work with the co-operative movement
My position as Senior Lloyd's Shipping Inspector
and the Lloyd's Shipping Agency given back
The diesel electric maintenance crew working
properly and for it's owners till my departure
I planned the move to Singapore and new challenge
then travel in Asia teamed with my romanced lady
Chopstick adept meetings and the gift of spirituality
had seen me never interfere with Chinese business
Poetry is often made impossible
and forgotten it dribbles away
Experiences begot are dried
in dusty memoriam of thoughts
Locked in chipped ornaments
pictured emotions die framed
in an old letter's sentenced pain
Decorative wordy entrapments
cannot fool or command love
however many silvered words
try to stir or grab at thine heart
Whereas times every moment in
your observed, captured thought
does cradle this beating heart
"We shall gift thought it's
touch and bites of freedom
then love it's sustenance"
Fun's giggling thrashing bushes
of living sweating poetry
Named for you alone
I call it 'Sugar Apples'
Green apple schnapps
and thimbles of a pink
add some tart tamarind
then sweet chilli sugar
before splashes of gin
to your taste and cry
Shaking in romance
and a lovely organic
cloudy apple juice
A pianist sings love
in your heart..."
A rosy red jug full
to sweeten our kisses
sipped from each
carved sugar apple
through long straws
Where do I shake it
to cradle your heart
Contended by mine eye and ear
I wouldst be joined by this kiss
in the promise made Dwynwen
whilst captured by thine poetry
a beauty lost in past empyrean age
as is this disciple here and now
in a sirens call of dark promise
lips offering a frisson of delight
thence romances pulsing core
Let this vow and plea be honoured
each 'Dydd Santes Dwynwen'
It's reddy pink petals
sniffed or chewed
might grant dreams
a tendency to
gift the surrealistic
shifts in sight
for a green planet's
billions of voices
it's proper name
sounds like labia
Official advice is:
'I have to water the lobelia because if I don’t it will die'
Love and conscience
self image and experience
shape our very being
guide our motivations
freedoms of expression
ability to give ourselves
love with the gift of fun
decisions made in the moment
leave embarrassment and guilt
ought we to learn and gain
not ponder them for ever
the flood of adolescence
its angst and experiences
cruelty, parenting, drugs
or our very survival
rob us, to shape us
separate - ourselves
into our days
to leave us
each our foibles and poetry
I favoured your grey eyed beauty with stars
enjoyed from the soft cadence of your voice
the unfolding words of love that found me
to love again in stanzas and deep pauses
Thumping hearts match stride. I throw her over barrier - spin aside and jump
(a senryu on love)
never so comfortable
The smoking girls
walking towards the car
Holding my left arm
way above my head
I rolled out of the hedge
looking up at long legs
I told their thighs
Limping arm aloft, the beetle
also ended wrong-way up.
A wheel span, I dragged
the driver and his girl out
Through window and petrol
to stagger arm aloft to heaven
Those long legged girls
talked me out of my hedge
Again at there feet
Operated on, I am
in a bed without thorns
At night the young nurse
tells me of her Indian life
Girls, now friends visit
telling me about another
They want sex, their
friends want sex
Nightly, a new life
I don't make love
Dreaming of thorns
not of girls thighs
There is only sex
with long legged girls
in other arms
Our last words
'A band of white wisps
Heaven's gift a gown of blue
A love anointed'
Dead sold souls herd us
Lost mindless finger puppets
Vapid witless words
“A large meat fed dog OR a bicycle riding Meathead
ARE more harmful to the environment THAN
a Vegan driving a four-by-four”
Eating meat means death
more suffering then grieving.
contracting breast cancer,
China’s rich women’s disease
Linked male disease
includes prostate cancer.
old age of the mind and body
Meathead fat minds and body flesh .
Grumbling guts of a -
selfish and cruel industry.
Cleaving and feeding
Meatheads taste for flesh and fat.
Growing numbers of pet dogs.
They, their butchering -
suppliers and the linked
Hands bloody with world ecology
and mankind’s nearing suicide.
Burn’t species in rainforests.
Slash and burn farming
Busy Meathead industry
Gross greedy blood dripping heart
“Detail is in the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s
REPORT Livestock’s Long Shadow”
Hot warming dry world.
Acid rain is falling
in livestock’s long dead shadow.
Our children, each child’s children
Meatheads dead with Treehuggers
Planets species murdered
“Meatheads, THEIR suppliers and producers of live and
cleaved flesh AND their greedy lawyer-ed politicians ARE
the primary cause of harmful greenhouse gasses”
Growing and processing
Feeding livestock flatulence.
Living flesh movement
Frozen slaughtered cut flesh
Transported, sold chilled packs.
“Land taken for grazing and feeding cattle flesh IS
destroying our rainforests, CAUSING desertification,
KILLING or DISPLACING millions of wild animals,
DRIVING species into extinction”
A plant-based diet
our nutrient need.
Land feeding just two Meatheads
will feed twenty four with grain.
“Or more than sixty with soya - BUT bioengineering has targeted
AND taken control of soya, BY doing so they might purposely
be destroying the bees - THIS another long sad story”
The flesh producers -
cause most the world’s pollution.
Consuming most our WATER.
Legislating against meat
New green taxation controls
“A worldwide plant-based diet WOULD require less than a
quarter of the present agricultural land and COULD
feed the millions who currently live in starvation!”
“It would allow us to SHARE our planet with the other SPECIES
that are struggling to survive OUR greed and stupidity
and HELP our own possible survival”
a deadly consumerism.
Cancers meat to eat
“Meat consumption is increasing, USING-UP a sea of potable water,
burning forests & species... MEANING there has never been
a more urgent time to reconsider OUR eating habits!”
Our sad indoctrination
“So MEATHEADS, are burgers, bangers and steak worth
the personal risk, YOUR children’s live’s AND the
approaching environmental catastrophe?”
“We have pulled the trigger”
We the generations
who have inherited
mankind’s death throes
must be accepting
of the death sentence
we have posted
“So enjoy the life you have left”
Now melting ice caps
and glaciers may
huge volcanic eruptions
from which mankind
cannot be saved.
“You can’t save the planet”
Who is trying,
arrogant lawyer-ed politicians?
Breeders and owners of dogs?
"Enjoy the blue sky -
whilst you can"
A largish pet dog
Four-by-four L V