from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 10 April 2015

saharan dust & a haibun-sort-of-prose-poem

I'm going to say this quietly: I confess to a touch of disappointment that my car this morning was not covered in a fine sheet of red Saharan dust. The forecast said it might be, and it's happened a couple of times before.

I know it's not right-on to be disappointed. I'm not underestimating the climatic effects of FPP (fine particle pollution), and I'm aware that if you're asthmatic you probably dread FPPs.

TM was disgusted when I said it was romantic. But isn't it? Just a little? In these more northern latitudes to have a sprinkling of red dust from the wind that perhaps will bring the swallows back, all the way across the Med, Spain, France and the English Channel to here, so that Spring might properly begin?

Way back in the early years of this century and millennium, poet Rupert Loydell and I agreed on a collaboration: we'd write, by email over 100 days, 100 haibun-like prose poems of exactly 100 words each, plus an envoi. We intertwined: whichever of us wrote the 100 words, the other wrote the envoi, and we also had a linking mechanism. The book was called A Hawk Into Everywhere (now sadly out of print), and it remains a project I'm proud of. It was also very exciting to create such a thing collaboratively, and the feedback on it was excellent.

For red Saharan dust, and hirundines (the swallow family), here's one:


Flavours, colours, names of the winds. Mistral, scirocco, tramontana, migrating over land masses, oceans. Contagious; madness, anxiety, restlessness, unspecified yearning. Salt-foam and fish of the blustering westerlies; sherbet-stainless-steel of the tricksy easterlies, setting horses skittering. The wind off the Urals that flattened the Fens and the fenlanders. Your car misted one morning with red Saharan dust; wind-skirts full of swallows, laden with odour of spices and rose. The dark tents of the Bedouin rocking with reek of camel dung, hashish, incense. Indigo and aubergine nights. Grit that gets into your eyes and makes you ache all through.

Villages in flames, forgotten meanings, the etiquette of rejection.

© Roselle Angwin & Rupert Loydell, 2001 (Stride)


  1. Oh that whisper made me smile. Shh, but I feel the same, remembering the dull-orange layer of dust one day over the car, tracing a finger through it, sniffing, licking (not sure if I did), thinking how exotic, then worrying about J's asthma, my own tendency to wheeze if the air's thick with unwanted pollutants. Blow 'em back to the desert. And then your haibun – that last stand-alone line like finger stabbing the sweet side of Romanticism: 'the etiquette of rejection' really went home after the wonderful kaleidoscope of Saharan sounds and senses.
    Shall try the discipline to get me going on the start of a chapter after a rather long break from writing. It has to start (don't ask me why) with a particular image of a vast view of English countryside through an eccentric array of domestic urban chimneys! If I do 100 words and manage to hit the mood, I'll be happy.
    So, as usual, ta for the inspiration. See you soon up north and island-bound. Safe journey.
    And by the way, J found one copy of your book, A Hawk into Everwhere, in Falmouth, I think, but will check when he's back from Hidcote and let you know.

    Miriam x

  2. I admit to also feeling disappointed! I am asthmatic, but I still love the idea of desert dust travelling and settling in wet windy Wiltshire. We are starting to see swallows here. We are moored near the fake tithe barn at Seend. The last time we were here the swallows were getting ready to migrate, just as we were doing our own migration for the winter months! Jx

  3. OK, so I'm not alone! Thank you both. Mentioned it before reading that prose poem that night at a gig in Totnes; the right-on audience didn't seem to agree and were Noticeably Silent when I mentioned my gentle excitement at - yes, Miriam - it's exoticness. Eh bien. Inshallah.

    Glad J found a copy, Miriam! I'm gently excited about that too. Rupert teaches creative writing at Falmouth.

    Jinny lovely to picture you there, even though I don't actually know where 'there' is, except on the Kennett and Avon I guess?? Lovely to picture you on water, anyway. I still haven't spotted a swallow. Often I see them on Iona before here, amazingly!

    Love to you both - Rx


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