© By Tom Paulin
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The grey hills of that country fall away
Like folds of skin. There are some mountains somewhere
And public parks with metal fountains.
Rains fall and then fogs freeze, drifting
Over empty stretches of water, forts
With broken walls on small islands.
Rafted cities smoke in the rain and sharp posts
Have been knocked deep into flabby ground,
Thin tatters of chicken wire strung to them.
Coffins are moored in its bays and harbours.
A damp rag, it flies several flags –
Bunting and boneyard streamers, the badges
Of territory. In the waste, silent valleys
Clans are at their manoeuvres.
At the bottom of a cliff, on a tussock
Of ground by a lean-to shed, a group
of men and women huddle, watching a man
Who tries, with damp matches, to light a board
Washed on that coast by the grey sea.
© Tom Paulin, permissons Faber & Faber Ltd.
Tom Paulin evokes a landscape divided by hostile tribes.