Quieter than tree trunks


Event on May 30th.

And even more work connected with George Morland! I'm doing a free talk and reading in connection with the exhibition at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery from 2.30 to 4.00, connecting my work and writing with refugees and Gypsies/Travellers and the exhibition. I'll be reading poetry and prose by myself and others, and there will be plenty of chance to talk and look at the pictures as well. It's free but you need to book. Parking is easy and free at the university on a Saturday.

You can find out more here.

And to whet your appetite, here's the poem about Kurdish refugees (from my first collection An Indian Rug Surprise by Snow), from which I've taken the title of the event:

Below Heptonstall

Ibo’s in a donkey jacket. We’re down in the woods

kicking a soggy March of last year’s leaf mess.

Twenty of us. The Kurds sing, ‘Who let the dogs out?’

They bark. They howl.

The fulling mill pounded out a rhythm in these trees

Clogs from down the valley clayed up before the sun rose

and John Wesley rode in on his mare with her short legs.

Rojgar says it’s like a mountain.

Steep. A scramble. He’s been there –

‘My cousin. He die. Very cold. Very cold.

Policeman follow. Gun. My friend. He die.’

He bleats like a ram lost on a mountain.

Someone barks. Someone howls.

Three of the Kurds join hands, toe leaves.

Ibo holds his scarf above his head like a yawn.

They sing a song about a woman or a massacre.

Someone howls. Someone takes a photograph.

Then they all dance, the seven men marooned

in a wood reserved for dogs and wrapped up children.

They pocket their phones. They step together.

‘Join. We show you. Yalla, yalla!’

Ibo is chopi – leader. You follow.’

Twenty of us snake through the woods.

The barks stop. The non-joiners join in.

What they told us was quieter than tree trunks:

‘We followed the sheep. We hid under trucks.

The dogs came. We were black with diesel.

They locked us up. We came here. You found us.

Look, we are friends. We dance. We sing.’

In these woods, no one follows us.

In this valley, no one shoots at us.

There was some quietness

before we wrecked the playground.

with the three men on a swing routine

and the Kurds started to bark again.

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