Dawn McLachlan







My grandfather told me of a forest

three days into the desert

reached by long march

and cold nights under an ice moon

with the endless sky of a billion stars

Restless and sleepless under dusty canvas

with drifting lilt of desert song

and bone-snap of a dying fire

he dreamt of home

Each morning they marched towards the distant shifting horizon

until the sun burnt air and lungs

Boots filled with hot sand and heavy pack pulling down

he marched on

leading until, in twilight, it rose from the sand

blackened ghosts of trees

claw-like branches scratching the blue belly of the approaching night

polished by wind and time

shining as glass

A petrified forest

casting lean moon-shadows against the rippled sand

a memory of life

a reminder of death

They marched on through

unsheltered by these parodies of trees

My grandfather broke step

to pluck a splintered fragment from the sand

Forty years later I sat

with a glassy fossil in my tiny hand

feeling it grow hot

a vision in my mind’s eye of his past

and of one much greater

I hung on every word

seeing as clearly as if I had walked in his sand-filled boots

listening and dreaming

as my grandfather told me of a forest

About the Author

Dawn McLachlan
Dawn McLachlan lives in Huntly, Aberdeenshire for the last 11 years. She has worked with children’s books and reading for over 30 years under the name Dawn Finch. Dawn began her career in public libraries before moving on to children’s and school libraries where she specialised in the development and support of young readers.
She is an active and outspoken campaigner for libraries and literacy and is a former President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). She was the chair of the Society of Authors’ Children’s Writers and Illustrators committee (CWIG) from 2020 to 2023, a role that included being part of the All Party Parliamentary Writer’s Group investigation into the impact the Pandemic had on the lives and careers of those in the creative sector.
Dawn has both written and contributed to dozens of non-fiction books for children, and her mainstream published books about prehistoric Britain are bestsellers used in most of the primary schools in the country. Dawn also writes fiction for young readers and has written about historical fiction for children and young readers. She writes poetry for both adults and children and is currently exploring writing more fiction and poetry for adults. She has twice won the Brian Nisbet Poetry Award and her most recently published poetry for children appears in the anthology, Poetry for 8 Year Olds, published by Macmillan Children’s Books in Feb 2022.
In her spare time she’s found on her allotment, or doing some community cooking, or helping out in Orb’s Community Bookshop. She enjoys walking a lot and painting a bit.