Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2009


by Diarmuid Fogarty

More like Hughes’s panther than Bobby Seale’s,
He occupies each burning day by placing one foot
Before the other and pacing, pacing, pacing.  

Step; step; step; stop. Turn;
Stop. Step, step, step, stop.
Turn; stop. Step; step; step  

On and on for miles inside the wire,
Until the orange and green uniforms bleed
Into the citrus trees that rest upon  

The banks of the eternal Guadalqivir.
Transported far away from here and now:
Step, step, step, step, step.  

The metres sound beneath his calloused feet.
The Great Valley, from Jaen to the Gulf of Cordoba.
Past the towers and domes of minarets,  

Blanketed dates, fish laid out on sandy sheets,
Goldsmiths hammering a steady beat, the hiss of steam-
Isbiliya! Beneath him! Around him! Inside him!  

Sweet Omani incense, bitter gahwa
From Suria; both mingle and blend
In the air of the soukh. The cries from the sellers seduce  

Astronomers, poets, mathematicians, physicists
Squinting at the produce, calculating worth, moving on
Or making to move on if the price descends too slowly;  

The good-natured slaps from the coffee houses
As the shisha is shared among groups of idle friends,
Its honeyed smoke hung over the air of commerce.  

Al Isbiliya! Al Hurriya! Your carressing heat!
The freedom to go where the feet lead one,
The freedom to breathe and smell and taste and love!  

To tread on paved roads, on yielding sands, on cool grass;
To feel the water from the marshes cover one’s toes;
To hear the muezzin intone the names of God.  

Close. Close now. “Brothers, it is the hour of prayer.”
And he is back in an instant. Back to the place
Where the palm trees grow. Con los pobres de la tierra.  

Where the world is divided into Mesopotamian reeds;
Where life is stopped and madness waits at every turn.
He whispers, “It is walking, not work, that makes you free.”  

Added: 21.02.2009