They burnt the olive trees down to the ground;
aged trees that had fed and succoured generations
had bowed their branches to offer fruit, oil, shade from the sun.
Their roots ran deep into the earth – silent witnesses
to those who had toiled, tilled and planted;
spoke in tongues of comforting syllables, settled in the rocks,
travelled from place to place seeking a home.
Their stories are atomised in the ash now, crumbed as millennial dust
broken as morning dreams, dispersed as races.
Who realises the bitter irony of proverbs –
one does not bite the hand that feeds you
or the image of the olive branch as a symbol of peace?
No-one is listening now, not even the wind
whose only purpose it seems, is to fan fires
or at best, offer a cooling breeze.
Maggie Harris is a Guyanese writer living in the UK. Her latest collection of poems, 60 Years of Loving, (Cane Arrow Press), won the Guyana Prize for Literature 2015. Her latest collection of short stories, Writing on Water (Seren, 2017) includes the Commonwealth Prize winning story, ‘Sending for Chantal’.