Here comes the night

I mourn the fireflies

There used to be so many

My grandparents say

They would looks at the trees at night

Seeing more firefly lights than stars in the sky

“There” they point, at the ancient mango tree

“It pulsed with light, like a forest breathing”

I found one in my room

I took him outside

He lit up and flew, disoriented

Not another firefly in sight

Finer Temptress

She spills silver on the borderlines

And foam on the wave edges

As she shines light into that mirror

Circling and drowning, over and over

Sinking in blood, wearing ample gold

Back up from the deep sapphire sea

Again to colour the mountains

And make the smooth leaves shine

The Sun sails to every shore

The wind blowing West

With no Moon there is only still water

I live a strange world where the earth itself seems to disappear. Now and then I hear a bird call, a song that only birds of the Monsoon Jungles sing.

I look about for this phantom and realise that tree lines themselves are hard to find. Now and then my attention surfaces like driftwood on the night sea when I see the damp edges of world. Frogs waylay my path refusing to move out of the way of my scooter, giant snails appear in strange places – absurdly delicate targets in a precarious world.

The only conscious glimpses I steal are on rare days when I’m over the crowded lines of buildings; terraces only intrude on neighbours in this city. On rare rooftops visits I look for the moon. They say that in old Sumerian myths Nanna, the Moon God was the one who birthed the Sun God, Shamash. The reason for this unusual pre-eminence was that in the old days on the Mesopotamian marshes hunter-gathers looked to the Moon more often than they did to the Sun. It was only with sedentary lives that the Sun grew more important.

I think of how wondrously different it must have been to live your life by the Moon, to wander along the Mountain ranges and river banks of the Tigris with Moonlight as a calendar, compass and God. Often I look up in surprised to see that the moon isn’t there, that it has slipped by so quickly while city life seems so frozen in concrete sameness. These years have all felt the same, lost in the slow stream of my own thoughts and the city, I can hardly imagine the Moon transforming so quickly.

In the empty liberation that builds cities there are no more butterflies for caterpillars to turn into, perhaps no cocoons either. No wonder then that the ever changing Moon is difficult to see when the sky is overcast and blotted out. With no cycles of the Moon to sway the tide there is only still water.


Over the black Pontic sea the waves rolled without purpose, pushing in every direction like the chaotic hair of a fallen God – his face serene in death and his expression offering no notes on his death. A current pushes in a sinister direction, blood emanating from this Northern Colossus.

Under a bloody sunset there were a few witnesses, all quiet before the sight of a raging sea so sudden from the peaceful shore. Darkness was soon upon the scattered figures, soon only shadows in the moonlight swaying gently fearful of even a word but too subdued to turn away, to turn together. Among the ruins of a great death they were lost to any time, only shepherds without their flocks anxious and dwarfed by trees, intruders among bushes.

The face of the Colossus drew no breath but the raging sea drew gasps so deep the earth might give away. In the storm noise the quiet thoughts of the witnesses gathered on the Titan who had dealt the killing blow, the great axe that struck it, the hand that still quivered as it readied the next draw, as the drums of war carried across the steppe. The emerging Gigantomachy drew battle-lines across mountains, the earth roaring as her Children arose to over-throw the old order. The earth hungers for blood as the new dawn, a crimson dawn, is birthed under the cover of night, its champions are hungry and aged, monstrously shaped and many horned but so often wronged by the smooth marble of the old order.

Dream Stream

The sunken stream lays across the land like a trench
In my dreams I see it, the old snail’s den zigzaging
Beneath the treeline there is only throttled sunlight
Sometimes the tadpoles and coin sized fish see snakes
And the rusty riverbed holds roting mangoes and red seeds
On it’s fringes weeds and moss are quartered
All year round the tree trunks and river side drip water
Sweating in the heat, living, breathing, calling in my dreams

Night Crow

Full moonlight
In lockdown
The temple doors shut
But oil lamps dancing
A Jackdaw sings
Too deep into the night
Crow, call again!
Hellfire on the streets
Far beyond what we can see
Over the smoke and moonlight
Past the Temple door
Crow, call again!

Siren Song

Under the shallow stream
On that vacant riverbed
I remember red seeds in the clay
Who spilled these rubies
Like the light on a starry night
Among the snails on the pebbles
Where snakes take to water
But fish do not swim
Upon that empty bank
My heart is trapped
Oh Village of my ancestors
Whose fables are still sung
When I am with my people
I am alone in elephant grass
Dusty breezes folding them
My family a rainstorm
But in the shaky soil
My heart is strung
In the shallow mirror of water
My reflection looks back
Though I live far away
In the rituals of this land
Ancestors are called
Around a bonfire in the night
I, a tree alone, in grassland
Over the mountains tall
Have heard a siren call