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
Morning air still
has the chill of spring
in its veins
but we wake bleary
from too much blood of God
We drink the blood of two oranges,
and singed cypress wood.
Spun light pulses
between geranium and lavender.
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,
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.