11:00, 11/11/2018

At eleven o’clock we stopped running and stood still, holding in harsh breath. Leaves of gold and camouflage brown twisted as they fell. People walking saw us standing, arms folded or by our sides, and checked their wrists and slowed and stopped. Across the Meadows children screamed and shouted in the play park, their happiness sharp in the silence. A cyclist sped by, oblivious, and people began to walk again. We remained heads bowed, each one counting their blessings and their sorrows.

At Halloween we did not dare

We climbed Arthur’s Seat on Midsummer’s Day, to wash our faces in the dew as the sun rose. The path was slippery and the fog was down, dulling any sound there might have been. Birdsong was distant then silent.

We were near the top, on the steepest slope, when out of the mist the sound of a muffled drum rolled towards us. We stopped. Looked around. Looked at one another. Then out of the mist strode a shadow, taller than any of us and wide as a castle door. Black and silver streaked hair to his shoulders, cape and cassock flying. ‘Pagans’ he shouted, eyes black fire, ‘leave this place.’ He pushed past us and was gone. The drum was still.

Our looks said it was true and we did not speak again until we fell into the palace grounds again.

At Halloween we did not dare.

He read the paragraph again

He read the paragraph again. And again, this time mouthing the words as he read. No, it could not be. But it is, said the voice. A cold dread touched his neck like the fingers of a dead man. He could not look round. He heard the shuffling sliding dusty sound move closer. His eyes rolled white and his teeth clamped tight on his tongue. The sound was near enough to touch and the voice…

Come, break down my house

Come, break down my house.
Come, break it down with your hammers
your bulldozers and ugly angry men.

Break it down, cut down the trees,
turn the bricks to dust, the branches to ashes.
It smelled good the olive wood smoke
when it burned in my hearth.
Now it claws in my throat.

My house is gone, the trees are now cut.
My family stand in the swirling dust
and you laugh.

Laugh, laugh if you will,
but know this.
My house may be gone
but I have breathed in its dust.
My hair smells of the smoke of my trees.
My house may be gone.
My house may be gone.
But my home will always be here.