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Sylvia And Diana Maclagan
SYLVIA with daughter DIANA



When you were yet a child, so dear to me,
tummy flat upon the rug, finger on a book
to read the lines, your lips a babbling brook,
my heart went out to you, my busy bumble-bee.

I loved those hours, so full of joyous play,
loved your curly hair, the sturdy limbs
so quick your favorite oak to climb;
better times there never were, nor gladder days,

that now I sit beside your arms upon the quilt,
so motionless, their lifeline out of symmetry,
and cannot grasp the ingrate chronology,
must hide my face awhile, with tears of guilt.

Yet still I marvel at the gallant spirit in you,
understand the battle in those dimming eyes
and guess your nameless sorrow, the solitude,
Youth’s body wasted frail his soul to heaven rise.

To Patrick, from Mummy, 24th. August, 2004.


I dreamed you sailed on The Golden Hind
to bring seashells from a Nereid's isle;
the night wind stilled as dawn crept in,
and sunlight danced on the seaward tide.

Pelagian chants swayed the Eastern pier
to stab my heart with a trident spear;
but a sea-horse bounced on Triton's swell
and a starfish laughed like a tinkling bell!

The Morning Star shed a crystal pearl
that glowed on a mermaid's silver curl;
and I heard the sound of a chorus soar

from coral reefs at the Ocean's door.
Yet the warning cries of a wounded gull
echoed back from the sea swept hull.


Leaping off Andean heights
white winds shriek across steppes,
to lash the bold and weak alike
in a fabric of untamed elements.
The lamb in winter
reclaimed by forces vaguely understood by man;
with thunder-fists the cordillera whips
sheep against the fence,
for endless leagues the snow is king
wrenching life from gentle things.
Gaunt pumas limp down to feed their young
on lambs with ice-blue lips.

September yearns for signs of Spring,
it’s birthing time for feeble ewes,
yet still the howling gale is pregnant
with wrath of vanished spirits memory revisits;
of ancient tribes winka banished,
keepers of this land’s majestic hues
where sun, wind and melting glaciers
traced glades among pehuén - pilgrim’s bread -
not paths for myriad cloven hooves to tread.

The lamb in winter
forsaken on a raging land,
awesome cosmic dance
of snow-clouds exploding in the skies.
A lamb sought warmth in a guanaco’s shaggy coat
- statuettes of ice shaped by a powerful hand -
reminders of man’s foolish stance.
The Lamb betrayed:
- Yes, One died for me - a fair child smiles,
… as her candle flutters in the blackout
and Christ’s wounds weep fresh blood.

Words in Mapudungun (Mapuche language)
Mapuche = Earth People. Mapu: earth, che: people.
winka = Foreigner, white man, often “the liar”.
Pehuén = Sacred tree with large nuts. Araucaria, Monkey Puzzle Tree.
Guanaco = Patagonian Camelidae with padded feet.

Note: Sheep erode steppes with their cloven hooves and appetite for sparse vegetation. They were introduced by European settlers. It’s now calculated that the soil can only withstand, on average, one sheep per five to ten hectares. Sheep are not generally sheltered in barns, even during harsh winters. On the other hand, guanacos have padded feet like camels, and are able to withstand long spells without food or water. The guanaco was herded by nomad Mapuche 7000 years ago and does not erode the land. Its meat and wool were the mainstays of the Mapuche economy, even after the tribes settled down and began to harvest crops.

© All work copyright of Sylvia Maclagan.

SYLVIA says: "Raised in Patagonia, I now live in Buenos Aires, but still treasure memories of that beautiful, even awesome region. The paradox of my happy childhood and present day ecological issues permits a veil to be removed from my eyes, as I perceive the damage and deceit perpetrated over the centuries by invaders without compassion or foresight."

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