Movements of War | Matthew Clegg


Peeling off the dressing from her cheek
she interrogates the mirror – falters
before smashing the glass. Beauty vanished
like the low swooping heron’s reflection
as it plunges into itself.


Our own people drove us back with jeers, clubs.
Separated from the tractors, I walked
without shoes towards the border at night:
I, an old man, who had never before
felt snails crunch under my flesh.


Rockets fall like festival streamers,
but the gunship holds position – hammers
its crude message. It is still spring here,
I tell myself. Yesterday I could’ve cried
for bees hovering as blossoms fell.


On these gusty days, when the sun is high,
it’s harder to tell, without glasses,
if it’s smoke-plumes or passing clouds
that send shadows shoaling over hills
caressing the contours like cruising jets.


The food has gone, the babies crying –
so all of us ran to the relief trucks –
rich, poor – who never touched in the last life –
and there she was. What price on love, then,
in a scrum of grasping hands?


‘What began in Kosova will end
in Kosova…’ From this England
I listen for news of the K.L.A.
on the World Service. Even in my own
language, I’m slow to understand.


‘Movements of War’ appears in Matthew Clegg’s second collection The Navigators.