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30. Cyprus (Ledra Street, Nicosia/Lefkosa, 1996)

One step.  Another.
Crunching hesitantly across the eerie quiet of the No-Man-Zone
that buffers this divided country.
Crossing the Green Line.
The vigilant gaze of peacekeepers tracking my progress.
I mark derelict buildings, pitted with old gun wounds,
and walk a lonely country mile through the heartbreak of a nation.

 

jpm

29. United Arab Emirates

If intelligent life from galaxies beyond
looked down on earth
and espied Dubai,
what (on earth) would they make of it?

Green grass in waterless deserts;
Palm frond-shaped islands recreating ecologies that never existed;
Improbable spires of glass and concrete grasping for the skies:
Nature subverted … temporarily … by Man’s denial.

 

jpm

28. Tanzania

28. Tanzania (Mt Kilimanjaro)

One foot (breathe)
in front of (huff)
the other (gasp).
Sucking at the thin air.
Boots d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g heavily through chunks of dirty ice and loose volcanic gravel.
My body as leaden as my head is light.
Summiting in Kilimanjaro’s numbing dawn,
5895 metres above the baking African savannah.
Woo-(wheeze)-hoo!

 

jpm

27. Germany

27. Germany (November 1989)

Three days ago.
“Die Mauer ist gefallen!!!”

Checkpoint Charlie, so bleak and forbidding just weeks before,
as I inched my way through the traffic jam of surveillance and barriers.
Now a free-wheeling, riotous East-West human motorway.

I witness the pure joy of liberation
as The Wall comes tumbling down.

 

jpm

(Die Mauer ist gefallen: The Wall has fallen)

26. Malaysia

26. Malaysia (The Pinnacles, Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak)

Four days jungle walking
(raining).

I creep out at night for a pee,
crouching over the steaming leaf mould
(it’s raining).

A hundred scrawny, starving leeches
LEAP to attention,
their infrared sensors focussed single-mindedly on my warm bum
(still raining).

The race is on: first to the finish line wins!

 

jpm

25. Kenya (Nairobi, 2000)

A city of one million.
Most in full-time employment.
Commuters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers.
Laughter beside corrugated iron shanties:
children playing games in dirt alleys.
A neat blue clinic nurtures modest dreams
amidst the stench and grime.
Health for all.
The Nubian-named ‘forest’ of Kibera:
Biggest slum in Africa.

jpm

Dedicated to the MSI Kenya mini-clinic team of Kibera.

24. India (The Taj Mahal)

Blinding heat ricocheting off the pristine marble of the Taj.
My bare feet dance across the white-hot path as if walking across coals.
Devastated to learn that the fabled love of a man for a woman
which built this great edifice, resulted in her death:
Fourteen children in fifteen years.

jpm

23. China (The Great Wall)

A sweaty, claustrophobic ascent in the cable car after
continuous traffic jams from Beijing to Badaling.
A cacophony of hawkers: it’s all noise and crowds.
Until – my tiny daughter takes her very first steps
(on the Great Wall itself!),
and all of us – hawkers, tourists, guides –
become one universal parent.

jpm

22. Belgium (Liege)

Hurting blue autumnal skies, crisp above the waterways surrounding Liege.
So peaceful, as my bicycle bumps along their banks.
But still the distant echoes of bloody world war which stole my grandfather’s dad,
drowned in these same canals.
Handwritten postcards to his six year old son, a family’s poignant sorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jpm

21. Nepal

21. Nepal

In Kathmandu, a life is lost too soon,
a witness in this ancient land,
leave-taken in a corona of carefully layered fire on the banks of the Bagmati.

The kindness of strangers shepherding his soul and his family
to comfort and peace,
ashes dancing under the watchful gaze of Chomolungma*.

jpm
In memory of Bruce Collicott (1967-2000)

*Mt Everest

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