I sang it once before:

a fit of quick design and years waiting

in remote space.


Just another brief—scrape the pox

from a tent or cave. Brass call

to sort any trouble for good.


Ask Alexander. Gleam of a sword, barrel

on a crown of rock. Smirks

at turbo-armour, zubberdusty.


They kuttle hurra

like bees to a tamarisk.


Will anyone force the pass? clamber

in snow, strip meat

from a frozen sheep, dash in a tunnel

through scrub and boulders.


Stall/go. Thought bubbles.


Out of place

you could tread on a pressure plate,

get a dose of confetti.


Tab-turn, flash. Our daily chant

speaks tribes not a country.

Must be spited for yesterday’s broil.


Coins from a grain-bag

spill, three handfuls. As smart

a devil as what we slip

by night.


Swillswitch, a great game

and who’s the cleverest?


Alone, some hood by a checkpoint,

EDU—CATION, serves a reply

to buttons and facings.


Must be the worst. Behind

there’s bitter almond, wild rose, a rivulet

then sand cloud.


Goozur-like we guard a thing not ours.


Boneland with poppies

to spike yumanity.


If all were settled, jung-i-kalūs,

we’d feel this sun a bull’s eye grape.


Patience to make the thing worthwhile,

an empty prayer,

flag at a turret-post.


Dreams are the soul in flight.

A surge-rider won’t take anything back.






Ruinad: certain phrases are taken from the vocabulary of Persian, Hindostani and Other Oriental Words in Lady Sale’s Journal of the Disasters in Affghanistan 1841-2 (1843) or from the text of this work.

zubberdust = overbearing, with a strong arm (hence “zubberdusty” in Kipling, “A Conference of Powers” and Soldiers Three).

kuttle hurra = cut someone’s throat.

Goozur = rumbling noise or passing earth tremor (from Sir Alexander Burnes, Cabool: A Personal Narrative [1842]).

jung-i-kalūs = a fight or battle ended.