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Archive for the ‘Travel Writing’ Category

Bouncing maniacally down the middle of the road.
No man’s land either side.
Can’t step left
Can’t step right
Mines everywhere except the cleared road.

Busting.  Holding on.
No good.
Have to pee.
Nothing for it.

Driver stops. Out I tumble.
Squat!
Middle of road.
Modesty less worthy than survival.

jpm

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8. Canada (Algonquin Lakes)

Erupting from a cloud of
VORACIOUS midges,
We paddle our tinny canoe
furiously
around the next bend,
Glen swearing all the way
his skin exploding in itchy welts.

Too late!

We’re eyeball to kneecap with
A skyrise
of unmoving mooseflesh,
Chawing away disdainfully
on his midstream morning tea
of waterlily.

jpm

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7. Jordan

It is the silence of the night desert that remains with you.
Deep in Wadi Rum,

The stars swallowing the sands.

Until the surreal moment,
When a company of Jordanian foot soldiers
Materialises from the north,
Clanking along in the night cool.

Assalamu Alaikum!

Then fading.

Into the startled moonlight.

jpm

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6. Malawi (2004)

The red dust rose around the plain wooden box
as the coffin-maker finished his work
at the side of the road into Blantyre.

Competition for scarce wood was fierce
in Malawi’s only growth industry,
ruling out the fancy decorations of old.
Perfunctory maybe,
but Michael’s carpentry held spirits in thrall.

jpm

Coffin Maker outside his workshop, Malawi (image by Rob Noble, courtesy of international HIV/AIDS charity, AVERT: www.avert.org)

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5. Turkey (far north-east, 1990)

The dolma was stuffed.
Heaving with humanity and its trappings.
Wheezing over the mountain pass.

Another woman and her produce by the side of the road.
Impossible!
No way!

Muttering in the back, general shuffling.
Still no way.
Claire squeezes onto my lap.  General approval all round.

Room for another.

jpm

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BANG!!!!!

Eyes up.

Three metres dead ahead.
The top of the double-decker fills
with opaque white smoke
and the roof peels back
Like a sardine can.

Somehow knowing.

Breath sucked from my chest
Running,
dodging falling tin and ….?

Then.

Nothing.

Silence.
Confusion.
Terror.

Death……

and then quietly, unapologetically… birdsong

Life.


jpm

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In downtown Dili

As the Peacekeepers’ trucks rumbled importantly by
(their helicopters clacking overhead)
And the children made their way to their teacherless schools
And the dust seeped into every crack and pore,

Someone

Had thoughtfully covered
The bottomless pothole in the centre of the road

With a delicate parasol.

 

jpm

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The first time
I went to Mongolia,
the camel spat at me (from it’s lordly height)
and sneered.

The second time
I went to Mongolia,
the camel burped disdainfully in my face
(loud and long).

The third time,
I didn’t even go to Mongolia.

I’d had it with rude camels.

 

jpm

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When he was 15,
Anh told me
his job was to dive into the sea,
bringing up the bodies of the fishermen
who had been caught out during the carpet bombing raids
on central Vietnam.
Bringing them home.

When I was 15,
I dived in the pool,
Bringing up coins.

 

jpm

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