Michael Swan

Over the Mountain

The people
over the mountain
are not like us.
Their traditions are corrupted.
They spit more than we do
and do not say the correct things
when eating.
Their clothes are strange;
also their hair
which they colour.
Cats roam their streets.
Their daughters wear metal ornaments
and speak freely to men.
Their music
is an offence to the ear.
They do not kill their prisoners
in the prescribed fashion.
They have no respect for the gods
or their ancestors,
but speak to stones.

For their own sake
we cannot allow them
to lapse further
into darkness and superstition.
When the snows have melted
we will cross the mountain
and take them the true belief.

Michael Swan works in applied linguistics. He has been writing poetry for many years, driven perhaps by an unconscious need to prove that grammarians have souls. His poems have been published widely in magazines, and have won a number of prizes; he has also
brought out two collections. He believes it is possible to write good poetry that is neither difficult nor boring, and he often finds humour a useful tool in dealing with a seriously confusing universe. Michael also enjoys  trans-lating poetry, and has twice been a prizewinner
in The Times Stephen Spender competition for poetry in translation.