Somewhere Else Writers (SEW) April 22 Selwyn Morgan

Selwyn Morgan

This month’s poem, by Selwyn Morgan, is based on his memories of Al-Jahra in Kuwait in the Seventies. In 1991, during the Kuwait War, Al-Jahra Ridge and Highway 80 became famous for their scenes of destruction. 

Selwyn said, ‘I lived in Kuwait City. At weekends, Friday and Saturdays in the Middle East, I would often visit the desert that surrounds the Arabian Gulf. Al-Jahra, west of the city, was one of my favourite places. It sat on Highway 80, leading to the Iraq border. The flat desert plain met a 20m tall ridge, impressive in the otherwise monotonous landscape.

‘Over the millennia, the edge of the ridge was forged into canyons by flash floods caused by the occasional torrential rain. Twice a year, I stood in those canyons so as to be unseen by Steppe Eagles that migrated, north in spring, and south in autumn. I would observe a continuous stream of birds approach the ridge and use the thermals created from it to soar upwards until almost lost to sight. They had gained height so as to glide effortlessly onwards on their chosen path.’   

To read Selwyn’s poem ‘The Highway of Death’ go to cirenscene.com. 

To read more work by local writers go to somewhere-else-writers.org. 

‘The Highway of Death’

By Selwyn Morgan

Birds glide south, on winds that rise
above Al-Jahra Plain.
With summer lost to the Earth’s tilt chill
and autumn’s hurry-up rain.
Each pass of time, a pendulum’s swing,
each beat a repeat of the eagle’s wing.

A Caravan trod north on sands that clothe
the vast Al-Jahra Plain,
its season lost to men possessed,
and those who would avenge… again…And now,
each bird that passed was a man-made thing,
each olive dropped came with a sting.

The travellers heard those silver birds
scouring Al-Jahra Plain;
whose screech announced that after all,
the day, for them, would end in pain.
Each flight of birds was a godless whim,
each mission flown with a devil’s grin.

Napalm fixed, scorched skulls smile wide,
set within Al-Jahra Plain;
as feathered birds soar up, and up,
their preferred height to gain.
A fond ‘God Bless!’, the smiles suggest,
to the birds’ transition at Times’ behest… and yet…

In times gone by I’d stood there, in a culvert, gazing up,
as eagles flew high, their course sustained,
by the winds of Al-Jahra Plain.
A spiral flight on thermals tight,
they’d vanish at great height… And I was
privileged to see that sight… But now…?

The man-made birds, with stoops so brief,
have change my fond memories into tableaus of grief… Yet, still…

Birds glide south, on winds that rise
above Al-Jahra Plain.
Their summer lost to the Earth’s tilt chill
and autumn’s hurry-up rain.

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