Iain Campbell. Watching the Weather


Where were you built and launched,
the cold Atlantic tide slapping your sides
that first spring morn?
And who sailed you, once stealing
cod, whiting and plaice
from a selfless sea?

Now you rest in the sand,
torn open, leaning to port, 
your planking, your gunwales,
your deck boards
long gone to sea one final time.

In Viking days they would
have torched you in celebration,
your white ash floating on the salt spume,
your cremation, a beacon on the shore,
a signal for the Norse Gods to carry you home.
But those Gods have long since sailed west
and so instead the winter storms
pick clean your bones.


This morning I saw you standing all alone,
in duncher cap and knitted scarf and dungarees,
quarrelling with the frosty weather
and frowning at its red sky warning.

A Massey Ferguson, battered, old and grey, 
was parked against the corner of your field.
The hill,  fresh ploughed and drilled,
is now a patch-worked quilt of rippled corduroy.

They say you keep a field mouse in your breast pocket
for company, that in summer you sleep with your boots on;
and that you stalk the dog fox skulking down the lane
in the lengthening evening shadows.

If you had wings would you fly south with the swifts,
or would you linger while the rusty apples fall?
I suspect you’d choose to stay, squinting into the dawn,
alone again, arms outstretched to scare the crows


They fought in the fields of Luwero.
Museveni, the young men
and the kadogas – the little ones.

They trained and fought in the bush;
friends died there, evil reaped its harvest,
families fled, their villages and schools burned.
Then one day in January they took Kampala.

Now they reclaim those fields, rebuild their houses,
and the bush gives up its dark secrets,
the bleached bones of history.
They place each skull by the roadside
as a reckoning of the dead.

Women still walk there, from as far as Katikamu,
strung out in the distance like tiny marker posts
on the edge of the narrowing highway;
high bounded by dry elephant grass
and fringed with memories;

As they walk those dirt bound gravel roads,
their long dresses billow in the dry red dust;
they carry coffee and maize,
cassava and mango on their heads,
in gentle stride and practised balance.

But now their little ones ride to school
beyond the lost fields of Luwero.
They stand swaying in open top trucks,
grab rails for safety, clothes the colours of Africa,
smiling faces, waving as they pass.

They won their freedom in Luwero.
Museveni, the young men
and the little ones …. the orphans.

About the contributor

Iain’s poetry is inspired by his love of the landscape and the sea, often intertwined with a tale of someone he has met, or of a journey he has undertaken. He has had work published in the Blue Nib, The Honest Ulsterman, Lagan Online, the Bangor Literary Journal and Poetry in Motion's Anthology which celebrates the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2019.

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