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From Boudicca & Co., 2006

Salt Publishing, ISBN: 1-844712-89-3


Driving the Tribes              (an extract from Boudicca)


We were like a river of mad ants,

unkempt and straggling, huddled

in factions, here one tribe,

there another, not one man on that side

calling this one brother. More men

poured like water

into this flesh-coloured river

at every town, suspicious

of motive, belief, allegiance, honour,

yet still fighting for each other.


For days we ploughed a crooked swathe

through the old valleys,

left them dark, like war-paint on dead bodies,

coming upon settlements

smokeless and empty, their folk already goneó

the way you know a stormís coming,

the scent of it on the wind

and those short hairs

on the back of your neck, stiffening.


The chariots, so many chariots, thick dust

clouding the air for hours afterwards,

oak leaves tacky with it, water

greased with it, children

playing in the ruts, women running out

with cloths clamped over their mouths,

skirts raised, to stare at us ...


Eighty thousand Britons

rending a road where there was none,

working a war-path

from field and cow-shit and bracken.


Jane Holland


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