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Poetry

Three Poems

Beverley Bie Brahic

WHEN THE CIRCUS CAME TO TOWN

They tethered the elephant on a plot

Of grass outside the municipal pool

Near the fairground

Where Roma on their travels stop.

I’d swum my lengths and towelled off

When I noticed her shy grey bulk

– But where hereabouts to hide? –

Rhubarb-leaf ears to fan breezes,

And rocking side to side uneasily

Like a visitor unsure of welcome.

I caught her eye and she, I felt, caught mine,

As if we had something to say

If only we could find the words.

HIGH LIFE

for Bernard O’Donoghue

Unlucky the girl who never leaves home

In order to taste the joys of exile

In a country where her pupils line up on Sunday

And each girl braids the hair

Of the girl in front of her

Until they come full circle, and the last

Braids the hair of the first;

Unlucky the girl who never leaves home

To sleep under a tin roof vultures dance on

In a compound lined with banana trees

Where her pupils gather each washday to launder

Patterned pieces of cloth

And hang them to dry in the lion-faced sun

On the scarlet hibiscus that scent their dormitory;

Unlucky the girl who never leaves home

To live on a road on the way to the interior

Near a village whose resident medicine man

Proposes she come in for a consultation

For she, at twenty-two, is childless

And seems to have chosen a sky-blue scooter

And foreign travel over the delights of a family.

ÎLE DE FRANCE

Northern skies, their sumptuous cloud,

New storms building on last night’s ash,

Suburbs grafted to a village

With a granite church, thrice-weekly market,

And Monument to the Dead

Whose names are still extant in these parts.

You are 30 km from Paris-Notre-Dame -

One of those neither-here-nor-there places.

I write this in the illusory peace

Of an evening in the not-quite-real world

Of hay rolls, combines and manure piles,

To mark our journey

Past pharmacies and time-hedged cottages

Whose shutters are still open,

Whose lamps begin to flicker on.

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