To read Jude's Preface click here. acrobat

Saudi Arabia: Oil Hunters

Before the oil we were shepherds
and drivers of camels, chasing stars,

crossing unmarked borders. Beneath
the wide tent we drank-in quiet,

our teapots nestled in roasting charcoal.
Then came oil. Wellheads bloomed, their

metal trunks withstanding desert heat,
growing strong on rich calories of black blood.

Riyadh teems with petrol pumps, and down
its streets we shunt in mighty machines,

managed by signs directing our migrations.
Transparent parabolas praise the cliff

of Kingdom Tower, water plays
like children at its palm-strewn feet.

Northern Gaza: Remains

The red crescent moon arrives
in the remains of the day. It remains
to adjust the covers, lift and push
the tray into the morgue refrigerator.

Some friends remain outside the gates.
The stocky man in orange and red
checked shirt uses a mobile phone
to tell his family all that remains.

USA: Long Island

Approaching fifty, Cathy is pleased
she and her fiancé can afford to buy
a foreclosed white clapboard property.
The estate agent's bus regularly tours
these monuments of domestic distress.
High heels tack up stairs past olive-painted
walls. The child investigates cupboards
for stories that may have been left behind.

Egypt: Cheops' Boat

In the base of the Great Pyramid,
under stones piled with the greatest
deliberation, there is a sealed pit.

Inside sits a pristine boat, primed
for sail. When called by Ra, Pharoah
will be set to hoist his colours.

If Apophis (the crocodile of chaos)
damages the sun god's raft, morning
could be delayed. Perhaps then Cheops

could step in, offer him his cedar craft.
This ghostly fleet of pharaohs travel
the netherworld through roots of trees,
passing underfoot like tube trains.

Serbia: Arrest

What happened to the trim locks
and smart suits in which this leader
told attentive soldiers
how to make enemies and eradicate people?
Can eleven years on the run change a man?

His beard and hair grown long and wild,
sprouting freely in newsprint and video.
His two-faced two faces roam Europe's media,
encapsulating Karadzic past and present,
professional dispenser of war and medicine.

He shall receive our finest justice.
As seconds shift, angry observers watch
for the minutest of changes
in his concentrated face.

Light clouds play on his wrinkles.
He makes a tiny turn of the mouth,
brings a slight quiver to his eyes.

The doctors aren't sure
if this ocular treatment
gives relief of any kind,
but he must drink his medicine in public.
He must be seen to take it.

China: Earthquake

Don't say I'm pessimistic,
I know what I'm thinking,
watching water gush
from the bottom of the dam.

Folks pass me by, negotiate
cracked roads, ford broken rivers.
Shadows lengthen over operations,
fresh waves of troops

are dispatched,
which helps to lift the gloom.
How to organize? This effort
isn't helping my angina.

Tools and wishes are spread
on cloth to keep scalpels, tongs
and bandages clean. Carried in
every backpack, solutions and futures.

Germany: Zoo Christmas

Long sun bear claws pull away red-gold giftwrap
taped with festive care to a cardboard box that,
we may imagine, the keeper has saved specially
since her microwave arrived. A sloth bear

has grabbed a gaily-papered tube, can sniff out
stuffed innards flavoured with syrup. Slowly, snout
dipping beneath the seal of angels, he sucks up
so many concealed, congealed, termite treats.

Two cold, firm hands clasp the shins of a small boy
who cranes above his father's head. Today
he rides this shoulder car to learn
how beautifully bears unpack presents.