We walk the canal under plane trees,
words in one pocket, silence in the other
past palettes stacked for la cooperativa,
the air thick with dust and late harvest.
We talk of work, cards we’ve been dealt,
the missing people, our grown children,
whose absences now lengthen beside us.
I explain how this hour a lifetime ago,
Nationalists executed the men too unfit
to march to the “work camps” in France,
leaving the bodies somewhere over there
to rot, dropped like sacks in familiar dirt.
They thought nothing could be quieter
than a country of unmarked graves.
Once in step, we speak of nothing more.
Someone’s taking pot shots at the rabbits.
Swallows speed type through pylon wires.
An irrigation ditch fills, a tractor stutters.
Black damsons clack against dry mouths.
Homewards we scrape, shale underfoot.
The price of peace can be a bitter fruit.
Runner Up in the Robert Graves Prize 2019