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"... brevity is the soul of wit ..."
- William Shakespeare


Phil Vernon lives with his wife Tebo in Kent in the UK, where he returned in 2004 after spending two decades in different parts of Africa. He works in the international humanitarian and peacebuilding field. His version of the mediaeval hymn Stabat Mater with music by Nicola Burnett Smith has been performed in the UK and internationally. 'This Quieter Shore', a micro-collection, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2018; a full collection 'Poetry After Auschwitz' was published by Sentinel in 2020; and a second collection, 'Watching the Moon Landing', was published by Hedgehog in 2022. He has just completed a new cycle of poems about conflict, peace and place, entitled 'Guerrilla Country'. @philvernon2.

Phil Vernon

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Home from war

In landscapes where trees used to talk with trees
through filaments beneath leaf-littered ground,
the paths I knew no longer welcome me
and oaks that once cast shade, cast shadows now—

and conjure armed and anxious pickets, guarding
men with axes, heard but never seen:
their echoes turning forest into farms;
their harvest forming dams across our streams.

War came here while I was away at war—
whole swathes reduced to bramble, briar and stumps
criss-crossed by giants felled as if by storms
while coppice stems stand bare in summer sun.

Though beech still talk with beech, in their own tongue,
they're fearful—fewer, quieter than before.