Saturday, November 10, 2012

The New Writer

In 2011, my submission was highly commended in The New Writer's Collection Competition. This Autumn they published the following 3 poems from that submission. They are all poems set in Crete, and I love the way they set them out all on one page - thank-you The New Writer, I feel honoured!


                                   It was easy to find
the herb garden. A boy, dark-skinned, 
puts down his hoe to show us round 
beds of rose bergamot, cinnamon trees,
five varieties of sage, a bank of blue hyssop. 
He picks us leaves that taste of chocolate, 
sprigs of things to sniff - savouries, thymes and mints -
pointing out subtle differences
like someone born to it. 

‘Did you grow up here?’
No, he’s from a place in Northern Pakistan,
famous for cricket. He’s walked here, 
he says. Had to. Eldest son. 
No, not Afghanistan, he almost laughed,
too dangerous. Through Iran.
Arrived in Thessalonika. No work.
Athens. No work. Terrible, he says.
A friend brought him here.

 ‘So you’re safe here?’
I see him hoeing, watering, harvesting
the healing herbs. ‘It's paradise in Crete?’ 
He shrugs, looks at the soil on his feet.
‘I live over there,’ waving vaguely 
at mauve mountains.
‘I cannot live in village. Police. 
No papers. Papers only by marry.’ 

I pinch out a smile.
Tagetes are piled on the drying nets,
bloody as sunsets, behind him. 
The thyme is on fire, seething
with bees.

Easter Monday

Morning air still
has the chill of spring 
in its veins

but we wake bleary
from too much blood of God
in ours  

still heavy
with Easter’s
spit-roast sacrifices.

We drink the blood of two oranges,
breathe basil
and singed cypress wood.

Spun light pulses
between geranium and lavender.

Paired doves 
make love with same three notes 
an interval apart.

The single yellow iris 
cuts its quivering chiaroscuro
out of carob shade

for the baritone drone
of the bee

to sense an entrance, 
lever the velvet sepal, 
bumble in, 

and leave,
in its purpose.


September. School is back. 
I'm on the beach, biting the flesh
of a soft, sun-ripened peach.
A cicada tuts from a tamarisk tree.
I think of my grandma, who once, 
on a Greenline bus in Hertfordshire, 
after the war, when I was four,
announced her disapproval of peaches.
'All skin and stone. 
Nowt between worth the money.'

Hanna, sumptious as a peach, 
sprawls sultana golden on a beachbed
borrowed from an old man 
toothless and walnut skinned,
who watches her all day 
from under his tamarisk tree. 
Hannah doesn’t mind. Whatever 
turns him on. She has a bed: 
he, food for fantasy.
Both have their peaches, free.

Autumn 2012

Published in The Interpreter's House 51, October 2012

I love The Interpreter's House because it's a treasure trove of mostly shortish poems, mostly just one per author, and also because they always seem to choose the poem from my submissions that I thought least likely to be accepted!

To keep it safe

I could slab up blocks of clay
to sculpt the memory of this bay. 
I’d leave roughcast edges 
jagged against screens of scenery blue.
Lower down, I’d whittle away
a curl of lip, sphincter, vulva,
blow-hole and cave-mouth
for molten glass
precious as marbles, to fill.
Winkle out slithery things:
a scuttle of crabs, a starfish,
a twitching slippage of squid.
Further out in indigo blue,
shoals, oh shoals and shoals
of nib-sized fish would be writing
epic novels of the deep dimension,
illuminating pages with ghosts 
of living oceans past.

Rhyme and Reason Writers have published a beautiful desk diary of poetry and prose on the subject of Seasons, in aid of Ian Rennie Grove House Hospice They have been raising funds in this way for 22 years, which is phenomenal! It's a lovely book to dip into through the year, and would make a lovely present at the modest price of £5! Poet Gerard Benson judged the poems, and this one of mine was chosen.

Four Seasons: Notes

Winter evenings sweat wet woodsmoke
and a bitter tar drips from the zomba’s chimney.
Ravens crunch the air like split kindling.
By midnight, sharp moonlight
carries salt on its tongue, stings 
with new snow from the mountains.
I hear Death and the Maiden.

Spring sweeps in with a hiss 
of swifts, unzips its hoard of golds:
sunspurge, crown daisies, Jerusalem sage,
in a Hallelujah chorus. And I’m listening
for jasmine, but what I get is orange blossom:
notes flagrant as the cadences of a kora
or that aria from Tosca.

Summer is brittle, splits pods, spits pellets
to a raucous chorus of cicadas.
A sexy armpit stink slithers
through open car windows, from the sticky 
weed that stays green when the rest is straw.
Mastic oozes. Scents are deep as carob honey, 
dark as Desert Blues.

Autumn’s first drops on hot earth release
pheromones of hope, stir sea onions 
to send out spires of light. But too early
and they spoil the grapes with mildew,
sour the wine. Half-dried sultanas rot.
Fermenting figs drop on the road, stick
in the ribs of our soles. Thunder,
distant drum rolls.