O sun, old alchemist, you’ve set us wrong.
Heat grips the land; the ditch-cut where the stand
of alders sipped is dry. Your brassy gong
has summoned dust from Africa and dancing
decks have sprung beyond the town so nights
bring shadows through the fields to trysts in lands.
Kitchens are like samovars at noon
and hens stroll in our open door, incline
their heads and pause, alert, mid-stride until
my youngest aunt scatters them with a broom.

Singing, bruised with love again, she browns
her legs with Miner’s Liquid Stocking Tan.
Her dreams, she says, are tangled up in sounds
of courtyard fountains and a bullfight band;
our roads are dusty and the air so sweet
the church-bells might be Carcassonne or Arles.
Off Britain’s lee, people of rain and mist,
beehive cells and prayer-rocks, the lost
tribe of Europe, how have we drifted here,
she asks, and who can remember heat like this?

O cousin altars, saints of Southern squares
among your smoky tapers, brass and dust,
do not forget us now! Our priest has fired
a fighting sermon at the sin of lust
to hold this god at bay while we still burn.
He knows that when the Western weather sends
the driving rain in sheets across our yard,
under the low unknowing clouds and turns
tin dairy roofs to panpipes frilled with wind,
the grey Atlantic brings us back to God.

Articles by Oliver Murray

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