Who knows the lights at last, who knows the cities
And the unloving hands upon the thighs
Would yet return to his home-town pretties
For the shy finger-tips and sidelong eyes,
Who knows the world, the flesh, the compromises
Who would go back to the theory in the book :
Who knows the place the poster advertises
Back to the poster for another look.
But nets the fellagh spreads beside the river
Where the green waters criss-cross in the sun
End certain migratory hopes for ever;
In that white light, all shadows are undone.
The desert slays. But safe from Allah's Justice
Where the broad river of His Mercy lies,
Where ground for labour, or where scope for lust is,
The crooked and tall and cunning cities rise.
The green Nile irrigates a barren region,
All the coarse palms are ankle deep in sand :
No love roots deep, though easy loves are legion :
The heart as hot and hungry as the hand.
In airless evenings, at the cafe table,
The soldier sips his thick sweet coffee up :
The dry grounds, like the moral to my fable,
Are bitter at the bottom of the cup.
- George Sutherland Fraser
- Return to Oasis -- Shepheard-Walwyn Ltd (1980)