The Borders

by Henry Bell

The borders
lie deep in maroon, cimarron Jamaica,
Freetown,
and Jericho.
Men made from tar ten thousand years ago
who walked for generations north
go home and pillage, rob
and leave a hundred pipe bands in return.
Bodies that trudged from Africa to Orkney
return white and cold and thieving.
They leave Nubians their tartan trews
and whisky
and take bodies, gold and food
and law.
The Scottish Borders stretch
across the central belt and up
through Aberdeen, a great gulf
filled with wealth and pride and torn black skin
hiding words like merchant, sugar
Lord, tobacco, lookout.