They built this place long ago,
Carved it from the chalk-lands
With antler pick and leather bucket
And waited with anxious eyes
For the enemy to come
By dawn or dusk’s dim light,
Crawling up the bare hills.
They fled this place so long ago
I cannot feel them here at all,
Cannot hear the clash of weapons
Nor smell the sweat and dung.
But then, I am a stranger, Child of the wild raiders Who crossed the cold seas
To gain this fertile pleasant land.
I am not of this tribe;
The bones of my fathers
Do not mingle with the chalk,
Bone white and crumbling
As an ancient cloven skull.
This rolling green corner
Of this much-invaded land
Holds no graves of my kin.
I must go further and deeper
To find my own bloodline,
Touch the soil my ancestors tilled.
And yet, while this land seems
To stand still, we ebb and flow
Like some slow sea, washing
The very shores of time:
The long march north from African plains,
The trek back across mountains of ice
As the cold closed the lands,
And the slow migration north again
As glaciers shrank like salted snails,
These journeys, these tides of people,
From the dark-skinned early tribes
To the pale ones of northern lands,
Tell me that even here,
Where I seem a stranger,
This is my land, my tribe.