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Sunday, March 08, 2009


by Peter Branson

Fall, Year of Our Lord, 1608

One of our oxen perished yesterday.
Please God the rest survive to work the ploughs
required to service our sustaining corn.
And Goodwife Holt's new born died unbaptised
at three hours old. Sweet Jesu, save us all.
The local Indians are pacified,
though much reduced of late, laid low by pox
and pestilence. Their women cover up
their nakedness with cheapest calico
and dyed cheesecloth: this fallen paradise.
The men have taken from our ways, proclaimed
Our blessed Lord saviour above all things,
yet secretly still conjure heathen rites.
The shaman told me of a dream he caught
last night as if mere fletchings on the air.
He scattered relics from his doeskin pouch,
foretold the slaughter of great grazing beasts
in numbers far too large to calculate
beneath the settled sun. He spoke of ships
steering the heavens to the moon and back
on sails like dragons' wings. And at the helm
white folk like us, determined to destroy
our commonwealth, fledge Satan's acolytes,
and mock the principles that drove us here,
those freedoms sacrosanct. Men strode on clouds
high overhead, releasing thunderbolts
to shake the earth below; enormous fires
burned hot and brilliant as a thousand suns,
smoke stacks like mushrooms arching heavenwards,
all living things spun out to so much dust.
These visions trouble me, crawl round inside
my thoughts like scorpions, a sign perhaps
God's judgement is at hand. He saw lost souls
hard at the devil's work, Christ's precious blood,
enslaving freeborn peoples far beyond
this terrifying void we limped across.
Black bile rising as sap from underground,
a huge white flag made evening at noontide,
striped by scourged blood, with fifty flashing eyes
like musket wounds, rents in a starless sky.

Peter Branson is a creative writing tutor. Until recently he was Writer-in-Residence for "All Write" run by Stoke-on-Trent Library Services. He began writing poetry seriously about five years ago and has had work published by many mainstream poetry journals, including Acumen, Ambit, Envoi, Iota, 14, Fire, The Interpreter's House, Poetry Nottingham, Red Ink and Other Poetry. In the last two years he has had success in several competitions including a first prize in The Envoi International, a second place in The Writing Magazine Open and a highly-commended in The Petra Kenney. His first collection, The Accidental Tourist, was published in May 2008.