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For all that

Alice Major
From:   Tales for an Urban Sky. Fredricton: Broken Jaw Press, 2001.


      For a' that and a' that,
        it's coming yet for a' that,
        that man to man the world o'er
        shall brithers be, for a' that.
            - Robert Burns, "Is there for Honest Poverty"


But Lord, Rob, you know what family quarrels are.
They've little changed in these two hundred years
while your statue in St. George's Square went slowly
black. Last night, outside my Glasgow window, a brother
and his sister caught in a clutch of curses, shrieking
and weeping, while children watched from windows
like a huddle of small birds.

Pigeons croodle at your feet, have left a streak
of disrespectful white against your poet's brow.
And still, however hopefully you watch, some
of humankind walk this square in fine leather
while others go in soles as leaky as an old ideal.
On the television news last night, black children
huddled in Somalia, starving for the sake
of a little grain. And on this Sunday afternoon
in 1992, men shoot men in Yugoslavia for reasons
lying far beyond the comprehension of any child.
We are flesh, not bronze. We break and bleed
till any hope of brotherhood seems ludicrous
as a streak of bird shit on a bard's nose.

For all that, Rob, what can any of us do but carry hope
on our shoulders, like a dove that's just come home
with messages from beyond the flood. Two women sit
together on a bench nearby, one brown-skinned, one
Glaswegian pale. Their shoes are whole, but have walked
far. Pigeons alight in a covenant of wings,
as the women scatter bread crumbs in a circle
at their feet.



Alice Major's works copyright © to the author.


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