Thursday, July 30, 2015

These two poems appear in the most recent edition of the wonderful ArtemisPoetry published by the just as wonderful Second Light and selected by Susan Wicks.

A hum

A colony has been moved from the loft
this morning, the rafters scraped clear
of their stash of sticky gold.

Brick-sized ingots drip into buckets,
bowls overflow. The girl who cleans knows
honey’s royal role in winter remedies

and how it keeps you young. Her grandma’s
skin is soft as a baby’s at eighty, she says.
Today, she’s straining and storing the harvest

for the Dutch bankers who bought the house
with the honey in it. They know nothing about it, 
she says. Just sniff at the scented mess.

They know even less about her, the help,
and the man who’s followed her from Waterford,
erected a tent in their orchard.

How she trickles downstairs, slides into night, 
belly brimming amber, trembling
to be touched, to be tasted.

How the tent walls billow, 
how the orchard is flooded with light,
and the lovers are humming somewhere

outside of themselves, without names,
or addresses, on sweet rooty earth, where air 
smells of honey musk, erica in bloom.

By the end of the week, jars are sealed, 
shelves stacked, tables scrubbed - 
the kitchen reeks of Vim.

She is replete, still perfumed by him.
The bankers pay her to leave.


Some schoolgirls from Makunduchi
came to the water this afternoon
still in their hijabs -
upright monochrome sea birds,
wading in the green prairie 
of the shallow, outgoing tide.
Laughing, they stooped and scooped water, 
splashed each other, 
got the hems of their black skirts wet.

The older women are always here,
crouched on the beach over lumpy sacks, 
pounding soaked coconut fibre on rocks 
to soften it for rope. Though the boatmen
begin to use nylon now, the women,
wound in scarves, still labour like crabs
that dig endless holes in sand
to collapse with every tide. 

But the girls stood out, a sign 
among the rag bag of small boys
squealing in deep jade pools.
And three older boys, nonchalant 
in football shirts, hovered, 
swaggering as boys do, held
in their sphere like Jupiter’s moons,
circling but never touching.

We watched it all from a distance 
the girls being girls in the water 
their white hijabs flapping: sails

straining in winds of change.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Proud to have 'Borrowers' in latest Tears in the Fence


They’d been living on borrowed time
twelve years for the promise of one -
down here on the cracked heel of Europe
where they’d retired to grow their own 
weed, feed twenty cats, turn their hands
to this and that. She grew fat, he thin,
before the ‘borrowed’ gin 
got into her liver’s cells again.

Their life was making up and making do.
He’d built her a cottage - dirt floor, tin-roof -
that squatted on land they could never quite prove
was theirs. Pink plastered walls rubbed smooth
by his hands, curvy carved casements -
a competence of touch came with failing eyes.
 A thieving magpie of the fixable,
 he became a poet of possible uses.

He’d fend for us and filch from us,
‘borrowing’ our tools. We were fooled.
He came to the door and took our power
with a cable and pliers and lies 
about how they could pay next week. 
For five years their heat came from our meter.
Then the woodpile he helped us to stack,
wasn’t there when we got back.

He’d get loans from Yiannis to lubricate
Georgios. At Easter, he’d tend the spit, 
baste, and carve us all mountains of meat. 
Her strudels and kartoffeln salad, 
his stories, our wine - they never touched
a drop, stuck to fizzy pop. Then,
in our absences - they had a key to feed the cat -
our gin would shrink, inch by inch.

As he nursed her, his blindness spared him
her smoked haddock skin, while his devotion
may have kept at bay how her mind lost its way,
meandered like sheep tracks in the Cretan hills.
He gave her a proper burial, in a graveyard 
with views of mountains he could never see. 
Then the bills came in, for the hospital,
the funeral he’d claimed he’d get for free.
At the end of the line, he tried one more time:
legs were seen flailing from our bathroom window, 
at noon. We loaned him a phone to call the son 
in Berlin... 
They were always the have-nots,
but now they’ve gone, less careful thieves 
come, and all the stashed tools and mongery,
crockery, fallen birdcages, gilded frames
lie scattered like bones in an ossuary.

Unpruned branches of fern palm
have cordoned off the path. The prickly pear
has perished like rubber soles. An aloe
dangles from the wall - a complexity of claws
with nothing to cling onto. The bougainvillea 
is still ablaze as if it meant to set the place on fire,
clean the slate. The hand-carved fence
is a blue electric shock of morning glory.