Poetry Shelf new poems: Fleur Adcock’s ‘In the Desert’


As the Taliban surged back into Kabul
and the international correspondents
looked more exhausted with every broadcast
but not as exhausted as the refugees

I thought of my young second cousin Matthew,
one of the four hundred and fifty-seven
flown back from Afghanistan in sealed coffins
to Wootten Bassett and then, in Matthew’s case,

to York for his military funeral
in the Minster, after which the gun-carriage
paraded him on a tour of the packed streets
before beginning its sedate procession

to the cemetery while we, the mourners,
plus vanloads of soldiery sped off ahead
at a pace Matthew would surely have preferred,
with sirens and flashing lights, to get there first;

all of which might have been designed to persuade
his parents that being blown up by a bomb
at twenty-three was a worthy destiny –
an opinion they are perhaps revising.

Fleur Adcock

Fleur Adcock, born in Auckland in 1934, is a highly acclaimed New Zealand poet, editor and translator who resides in Britain. She has published many collections of poems, most recently Glass Wings (2013), The Land Ballot (2014), Hoard (2017) and The Mermaid’s Purse (2021). Her awards include the 1961 Festival of Wellington Poetry Award, the Jessie Mackay Prize in 1968 and 1972, the Buckland Award in 1968 and 1979, the New Zealand National Book Award in 1984, an OBE in 1986, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006, and a CNZM for services to literature in 2008. In 2019 she was the recipient of a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.

1 thought on “Poetry Shelf new poems: Fleur Adcock’s ‘In the Desert’

  1. handersn100

    Love the poem, thank you! Is there a date on this? Where was it published?

    Best Regards

    Helen *Helen Anderson * 0275 688 754



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