An extract from 'The Mara Crossing' (Chatto & Windus), which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2012. Ruth Padel reads with Leah Umansky at The Poetry Café on Monday 23rd July 2018.

from The Mara Crossing

by Ruth Padel

You go because you heard a cuckoo call. You go because
    you’ve met someone, you made a vow, there are no more
    grasshoppers. You go because the cold is coming, spring
    is coming, soldiers are coming: plague, flood, an ice age,
    a new religion, a new idea. You go because the world rotates,
    because the world is changing and you’ve lost the key.
    You go because you have the kingdom of heaven in your heart.
    Or the kingdom of hell has taken over someone else’s heart.

You go because you have magnetite in your brain, thorax, tips
    of your teeth. Because there’s food over the hill
    and there’ll be gold, or more likely bauxite,
    inside the hill. You go because your mother is dying
    and only you can bring her the apples of the Hesperides.
    You go because you need work.

You go because the astrologers say so. Because the sea
    is calling and your best friend bought a motorbike
    in America last year. You go because the streets are paved
    with gold and your father went when he was your age.
    You go because you have seventeen children and the Lord will provide,
    because your sixteen brothers have parcelled up the land
    and there’s none left for you. You go because the waters are rising,
    an ice sheet is melting, the rivers are dry

there are no more fish in the sea. You go because God
    has given you a sign – you had a dream – the potatoes are blighted.
    Because it is too hot, too cold, you are on a quest for knowledge
    and knowledge is always beyond. You go because it’s destiny,
    because Pharoah won’t let you light candles on Friday at sundown.
    Because you’re looking for

an enchanted lake, the meaning of life, a tall tree to nest in.
    You go because travel is holy, because your body
    is wired to go, you’d have a quite different body and different brain
    if you were the sort of bird that stayed. You go
    because you can’t pay the rent, creditors lie in wait for your children
    after school. You go because Pharoah has hogged the oil,
    electricity and paraffin, so all you have on your table
    are candles, when you can get them.

You go because there’s nothing left to hope for.
    Because there’s everything to hope for and all life is risk.
    You go because someone put the evil eye on you
    and barometric pressure is dropping. You go because
    you can’t cope with your gift – other people can’t cope with your gift –
    you have no gift and the barbarians are after you.

You go because the barbarians are gone, Herod
    has turned off the internet and mobile phones, the modem
    is useless and the eagles are coming. You go because the eagles
    have died off with the vultures and the ancestors are angry
    there’s no one to clean the bones. You go in peace. You go in war.
    Someone has offered you a job. You go because the your dog
    is going too. Because the Grand Vizier sent paramilitaries to your house last night,
    you have to go quick and leave the dog behind.

You go because you’ve eaten the dog and that’s it, there’s nothing else.
    You go because you’ve given up and might as well. Because your love
    is dead, because she laughed at you, because she’s coming with you
    it will be a big adventure and you’ll live happily ever after.
    You go in hope, in faith, in haste, high spirits; deep
    sorrow, deep snow, deep shit and without question.

You pause halfway to stoke up on Omega 3 and horseshoe crabs.
    You go for phosphorus, myrtle-berries, salt. You go for oil
    and pepper. It was your father’s dying wish.
    You go from pole to pole, you go because you can,
    you mate and sleep on the wing.
    Because you need a place to shed your skin
    in safety. You go with a thousand questions but you are growing up,
    growing old, moving on. Say goodbye to the might-have-beens

you can’t step into the same river twice.
    You go because hope, need and escape
    are names for the same god. You go
    because life is sweet, life is cheap, life is flux
    and you can’t take it with you. You go because you’re alive,
    because you’re dying, maybe dead already. You go because you must.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

With innovative education and commissioning programmes and a packed calendar of performances, readings and competitions, The Poetry Society champions poetry for all ages.

More about the Poetry Society…

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Belated but very heartfelt thanks to everyone who featured, slammed and supported the show last Friday at the @PoetrySociety Cafe. We had fantastic singing, reading and performance and congratulations to @damidents the new Farrago School's Out SLAM! champion! Retweeted by The Poetry Society

Jim Anderson with his beautifully crafted paintings and linocuts @PoetrySociety this evening. Retweeted by The Poetry Society

test Twitter Media - RT @kitboyd: Jim Anderson with his beautifully crafted paintings and linocuts @PoetrySociety this evening. https://t.co/wCqJUxlW4M

Latin American Poetry Night next week at The Poetry Café featuring a trio of poets: Leonardo Boix @leoboix, Adelaide Ivánova work read by her translator Francisco Vilhena & Diego Alegría 26th July 7.30pm bit.ly/latinamericanp…

test Twitter Media - Latin American Poetry Night next week at The Poetry Café featuring a trio of poets: Leonardo Boix @leoboix, Adelaide Ivánova work read by her translator Francisco Vilhena & Diego Alegría 26th July 7.30pm https://t.co/DrV21fWZqS https://t.co/W5KwooiGFV

Join me for a Poetry Workshop @applestores Regent Street next Thursday as part of the #todayatapple series of events. Register here: apple.co/2merUKo Retweeted by The Poetry Society

The last in our month-long series of FREE workshops at the Regent Street @Apple store celebrates the spirit of London with @SukinaPilgrim: come along on Thursday 26 July. twitter.com/sukinapilgrim/…

"you kiss / the mirror's cold navel / with the kind of pride that comes naturally / to those born carrying history as an extra limb" From Momtaza Mehri's 2017 #NationalPoetryCompetition 3rd prize winner 'Oiled Legs Have Their Own Subtext' Enter for 2018: bit.ly/natpocomp

test Twitter Media - "you kiss / the mirror's cold navel / with the kind of pride that comes naturally / to those born carrying history as an extra limb"

From Momtaza Mehri's 2017 #NationalPoetryCompetition 3rd prize winner 'Oiled Legs Have Their Own Subtext'
Enter for 2018: https://t.co/Cd9JKC9llI https://t.co/q61RLsrgWh

Calling all 11-17 year old writers! This is your penultimate weekend to enter the #FoyleYoungPoets of the Year Award. It's free and former winners say it changed their lives. If you are 11-17 or know someone who is, help spread the word - enter by 31 July: foyleyoungpoets.org

test Twitter Media - Calling all 11-17 year old writers! This is your penultimate weekend to enter the #FoyleYoungPoets of the Year Award. It's free and former winners say it changed their lives. If you are 11-17 or know someone who is, help spread the word - enter by 31 July: https://t.co/BYvO8ywy1t https://t.co/nd0TJoorJG

New York poet Leah Umansky, writer of Game of Thrones and Mad Men inspired poetry, visits London for a special reading at @poetrysociety’s Poetry Café on Monday 23 July, joined by the one and only Ruth Padel: book your ticket now! bit.ly/padelumansky Retweeted by The Poetry Society

"The radicals sprung the locks that night, hurrah!" Congratulations to Stephen Sexton on winning an Eric Gregory Award! Stephen also won the 2016 National Poetry Competition with the absolutely excellent poem 'The Curfew', which you can read in full here: poems.poetrysociety.org.uk/poems/the-curf… twitter.com/TheEmmaPress/s…

Monday 23 July @ The Poetry Café: In Town Tonight featuring the amazing Leah Umansky (@lady_bronte), visiting London on tour for her new collection THE BARBAROUS CENTURY, w/ @ruthpadel. Poems on love, dystopia, and Tyrion Lannister. Book your ticket at bit.ly/padelumansky

test Twitter Media - Monday 23 July @ The Poetry Café: In Town Tonight featuring the amazing Leah Umansky (@lady_bronte), visiting London on tour for her new collection THE BARBAROUS CENTURY, w/ @ruthpadel. Poems on love, dystopia, and Tyrion Lannister. Book your ticket at https://t.co/sxYlNHPCeW https://t.co/u7zhxhQPZh
test Twitter Media - Monday 23 July @ The Poetry Café: In Town Tonight featuring the amazing Leah Umansky (@lady_bronte), visiting London on tour for her new collection THE BARBAROUS CENTURY, w/ @ruthpadel. Poems on love, dystopia, and Tyrion Lannister. Book your ticket at https://t.co/sxYlNHPCeW https://t.co/u7zhxhQPZh