Writing in Shetland

Two Poems in English by Christine de Luca
Order this book from: Shetland Library Lower Hillhead, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0EL, UK.

Not the Garden Route

East from Durban is not the Garden Route*,
but in a crimsoned morning with the surf edge lit
by a floating sun, there is beauty.

The rivers are quiet: Umvoti, Tugela, Umfolozi.
Salt tides and lagoons are shrunk slow.
They are as unmoved as faces in market stalls.

The women are up, bent over fields in the cool
of the morning. They put food in the mouths
of their children and grandchildren.

Plantations of eucalypts rise alien and white
out of red earth, suck at the wet nurse
of the water table. The land is shaped

by water, has the curve of woman. It bristles
with sugar cane, gives with a lazy grace
seven crops from one planting.

Where are you walking to, all of you? You
with a box on your head? You with that cow?
You with that aimless look? This is

a giving earth, a forgiving people
their lagooned anger slow as their rivers
their greetings fresh as the sunrise.

(*the route from Durban to Cape Town)

Time of my life

Sun slants through wood and hedgerow,
throws down a challenge to all things animate.
The dark watches of winter have passed,
We career rashly towards summer.

I startle a roe deer. She disappears
in a fluent silence, leaves behind
only the sound of a burn*.
I have seen her on cave walls, in full flight.

As I climb to the hidden waterfall,
I sense there a quickening, a delicious passion.
The chaste gash in the rock beckons,
a distant breath, a sensuous insistence.

Slight wind stirs conversation
among brittle beech: old débutantes
crêpe-faced, sitting out the dance.
They shift stiffly, a swish of taffeta.

There is little here to mark time's passing.
Hours may have vanished or minutes.
The tilth is ancient; trees have the girth
of a century. It is me that is ephemeral.

Today, I shall measure time against
one sunset, or the fleet foot of the deer.

(*burn: a small river)

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