A poem by John Burnside

Behind faces and gestures
We remain mute
And spoken words heavy
With what we ignore or keep silent
Betray us

I dare not speak for mankind
I know so little of myself

But the Landscape

I see as a reflection
Is also a lie stealing into
My words I speak without remorse
Of this image of myself
And mankind my unequaled torment

I speak of Desert without repose
Carved by relentless winds
Torn up from its bowels

Blinded by sands
Unsheltered solitary
Yellow as death
Wrinkled like parchment
Face turned to the sun.

I speak
Of men's passing
So rare in this arid land
That it is cherished like a refrain
Until the return
Of the jealous wind

And of the bird, so rare,
Whose fleeting shadow
Soothes the wounds made by the sun

And of the tree and the water
Named Oasis
For a woman's love

I speak of the voracious Sea
Reclaiming shells from beaches
Waves from children

The faceless Sea
Its hundreds of drowned faces
Wrapped in seaweed
Slippery and green
Like creatures of the deep

The reckless Sea, unfinished story,
Removed from anquish
Full of death tales

I speak of open valleys
Fertile at men's feet
Overgrown with flowers

Of captive summits

Of mountains, of clear skies
Devoured by untamed evergreens

And of trees that know
The welcome of lakes
Black earth
Errant pathways

Echoes of the faces
Haunting our days.

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