Desperate, wizened fingers claw at dry soil,
still hopeful, the parched earth will seep a drop of moisture.
Eyes red-raw: crying got her nowhere.
Four years without rain, the cruel dust winds sting.
Rotting roots, the juice of cactus, the crunch of insects:
all she knows is the children must be fed.
Their hunger eats away at their insides, like maggots in soft fruit.
Death lingers in the heat.
Young men travelled far: failing crops pushing them ever northwards.
Old men, ashamed of the hard-grey soil, withered like twisted sticks.
The women had no choice -they stayed,
watching the stale earth crack, decay.
Once, this sandtrack had been a river –
its blue slither snaked its way to the sea.
water flowed silver over sand and rock,
oozing its jubilant freedom, spreading its hope of escape.
How they had splashed in its friendliness,
paddled in its playfulness, bathed in its immenseness,
watering their livelihood – a distant memory.
Her cracked lips are unaware of melting ice-caps,
how rising seas threaten other mother’s children.
She only hears her baby’s cry.
What she wouldn’t give for one drop, one drop, one drop!
The corridors of power bustle with decisions:
sipping their spring-water from plastic cups,
leaving them half drunk or tossed away…
still her baby cries for just one drop.
How many more like us can we expect
when all is barren south of Casablanca?
How many grieving souls
will set off on a ruthless trek
confident their answer
rests in Europe’s wealth and fertile soil?
When all the wells are dry, when crops are crisped
and when the very air’s too hot to swallow,
how many years must burn
before you size despair and risk,
bag up your life and follow
the flight of friends, mindful there’s no return?
We sell-up for what pittance we can get
and bung the larger portion to the man
whose trade is organising.
Then burdened mainly with regret
we actuate the plan,
our vision fixed upon a pale horizon.
But working in the shadows of the north
we find the climate fiery, as at home.
The flag-wavers resent us
regardless how we prove our worth:
we’ll always be for them
whipping boys and vents for pent-up tempers.
The situation in the south has worsened.
Rivers fail and staple food crops shrivel.
We take a cut in pay
blamed not on drought, but surplus persons.
Now northern rains unravel
whilst more upon more of us are on their way.
The sky is so much darker now.
It houses rage that burns,
no longer the dreams
I’d float on as a child. The fires come
like stampede. Watch out.
Or die. There is nothing beyond
this plane of existence, but the heat
that cuddles too tight, makes
you sweat like it’s rinsing you of life.
We walk, but the road is lava.
We learn to wear blisters as shoes.
Irksome heat under collars, blue and white alike
The family smogged over by a carbonised methane cloud
The home morphing into a greenhouse fountain of gas
Outside your window a battle front sprawls without frontier or ownership
A tree, a maternal ally, a casualty, floats by on water shunted by a distant iceberg
Stand up, leave the car at home and run to its aid
Grasp that ally by its horns
Resuscitating carbon capture and store
Carbon on the menu: cut down its choice by two thirds and not another tree in nine years
Contesting your mother’s existence,
with the poorer nations that need support
Make your intention a reality
Now walk that talk
It’s getting cold
Burn some more fossils
or put on another layer?
You know the answer
Plant your allies