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hills and plain - A Poem

Under a low sky, scraping the bounds of earth

a stillness mists around us to make the world opaque

and shuttered to the light; 

a landscape framed through glass I had neglected, 

blaming eyes I'd bruised by facing the absurdities of life...

Eyes blinked, shocked at what a scan now shows 

of our society, smallholders from a broken hilly country 

who'd decanted raw onto a corner of the plain,

encamped and learned to specialise in arcane fields

of discipline and industry in order to survive. 

We were unencumbered - so we thought - by overweening majesty 

but circumscribed in island ways and sunk in careless sleep: 

locked inside our tags, choking down our lack of words, 

we bit our tongues to shift the taint of so-called heresy, 

mere children among the empty cynics standing by, detached… 

Meagre people, absent leadership or vision, faith or hope,

who gave precedence to scoundrels and took nonsense for an answer; 

we were cowed by jackals, led by donkeys following false prophets,

their tenets proudly burnished against sense – the hollow men

now pretending to console us at the funeral of logic. 

Our shame was tolerating their disgrace.

Now many have decided to make the best of it they can 

and seek to save themselves, 

as we shake our fragments into line, of sorts, 

to stumble (sheep to slaughter) off a cliff… 

A line of freely chosen chains,

of private personal catastrophes beyond our daily bread.

Lost, perhaps; mistaken, certainly. 

Still craving purpose, we go blind into the night -

albeit not unhappy, in our imbalanced way.


AL Franklin was born in Scotland but left their roots long ago, and lived abroad for a spell before settling in Hertfordshire in 1999. Their work explores relationships and responses on a personal level as well as trying to illuminate or even understand wider social issues. They have a long-term partner, three grown-up children and a professional career. They are drawn to irony and also to a wide range of enthusiasms, pursued with insufficient detachment.

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