From the top of the hill, the view of blue sea and sky
is perfect, although the family’s olive grove
has gone, destroyed during last summer’s drought,
their farmhouse too. Just blackened walls
and ashy ground now, as if a bomb had hit it,
or a bolt of lightning. A cigarette end dropped,
people explain, a careless camper’s fire,
foreign visitors who didn’t grasp the danger.
Nobody’s sure, but in a bone-dry year, with the hills
a tinderbox, a single spark would’ve been enough.
The men shrug nervously and look away,
not wanting their eyes to show what they suspect,
that it might have been one of them. He asks
where the family’s living now. Gone, they say,
arms waving away what they can’t take in.
Given up the land to make a new start in the city.
Fat chance of that! They’ll end up scrounging
hand-outs on the street! He nods, knowing fear
makes laughter cruel and hardens hearts,
recalling the stony city he calls home. But walking
back to the village later, the bitter taste
in his mouth of ash already becoming only an idea
of the taste, not the ashen bitterness itself,
he accepts that what he’ll remember won’t be this.
If you have any comments on this poem, Ken Head would be pleased
to hear them.