20. Bangladesh

20. Bangladesh

It’s 50°C and temperatures are rising.
Hidden beneath the colourful, tattered veils of conservative Chittagong,
the modest matrons as young as eighteen shelter chastely from prying male eyes.
Squatting on swept dirt floors,
they chatter with bawdy, eye-popping, side-splitting aplomb about their husbands’ inadequacy ‘indoors’.
Butter wouldn’t melt!



19. Myanmar (Burma)

What does The Lady say? What will The Lady think?
A silhouette of an idea, a flickered impression of a movement,
a resolute shadow of a nation.
Always there.
Never seen, but heard within everyone’s listening heart,
in their deepest way of knowing.
The grace and patience of a people.


18. Eire (Ireland)

And in County Cork, the craic is good and the bowls are flung with underarm abandon along the crooked backroads.
Betting is fierce as spectators leap asunder from the cannoning bullets.
And in the distance, the hulking shadow of St Kevin’s (‘longest building in Europe!’), built to encase the insane.


17. Iceland (near the Vatnajokull Glacier)

When the world was just begun,
the earth shifting and heaving, steaming and bubbling,
untrodden and newborn.

Verdant Green.

Vast and sweeping landscapes.
Still to be known, but with tomorrow’s breath.

Cerulean Blue.

Unsung, yet already heroic.
And utterly solitary.

Glacial White.

This, then, is the first saga of Iceland.


16. The Philippines (Manila)

Call it research.
Sex workers learning how to protect themselves from HIV.
A client calls – I’m hurriedly bundled in amidst the girls.
He hesitates on his slow inspection, eyeing me speculatively.
‘Not this one’ says the brothel owner.
Cool as anything.
Not me: I’m all sweaty relief and bug eyes!


15. Italy (Rome)

Preternaturally quiet, dust motes suspended in a shaft of cool, subterranean sunlight, deep below the roasting scooter-filled streets.

Ancient bones, crumbling to naught, stacked high in Catacomb walls

A femur here, a grinning jawbone there.  A crooked finger, beckoning forwards into the once-living story of a Roman past.

jpm (posted from Cairo Montenotte, Italy)

14. USA

14. USA

A cruel wind whipping papers and dust from the night before against my legs.
Old lady shuffling past.
A yell!
Fit young man sprints ahead, her handbag clutched under his arm.
Seconds later, a NYC mounted trooper gallops past on his mighty stead,
giving chase.

Only in New York.

jpm (posted from Toirano, Italy)

13. Morocco (Fez)

Dark, narrow, twisting, threatening.
Alleyways in the old town.
Mules push past improbably.
I stumble sideways under another archway.
Nostrils prickle, assaulted by the stench of the Tannery ahead.
Bubbling, mediaeval vats, vivid yellow and red dyed skins, scraped clean on the earth, basking their stink in the bleaching sun.


12. Indonesia (Sulawesi)

Seated with care in the esteemed guest’s position,
itinerant strangers shepherded in to honour The Dead.
The squealing of sacrificial pigs exploding up through the floorboards.
There we squirm, eyeballing the black cardboard coffin.
Garlands of flowers, not quite masking the slightly sweet aroma of humid, three day old death.


11. Egypt

11. Egypt (Giza Pyramid)

I’m folded over, shuffling upwards at a 45° angle, my nose inches from the bum ahead.  The stifling, dank air nothing to the claustrophobia – which is naught to the dent the 3000 year old roof puts in my head when the man behind me fondles my captive bum, in delight.


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