Notes to the Conquerer

Don't think for a moment
you have ahold here.
You don't even know
the stretch of this land,
its rockiness, its brual
white winter wind, its gentle spring.
You don't know where the streets
(with all their mud) go, where
the silent morning rain
slides through tall stands
of crisp bamboo.

Where angels fear to tread
you want to go, hard footed
uninvited, bare
into the stone cathedrals with
their rows of kneeling,
brown worn prayers
a testament to truces
lost before your birth.

Don't say this is a challenge
you think you can handle.
We fought our long battles
years ago, fight them still unspeaking, bent to hoe
to cook, to clean, to sleep
whitewashed and naked
in our broken peace.

Look down into this mystery
one moment, still sunlit, still shaking
as the light on ancient walls
and rich plowed fields
the backs of men and dogs
hacking through the thick
to the singing women's
resigned and holy tones.

will survive you.

Madeleine Roberts