Poems

Scherzo

Don't you miss those days when you'd
slip on a slutty, fetching dress,
nonchalantly advertising
nubile splendours of the flesh;
light a casual cigarette,
sip champagne or choke on schnapps;
trawl the cloisters looking bored
in denim worn with attitude,
or disappear for nights into a nautiline
vortex of paper, working on an overdue
assignment - Mandelshtam or Blok;
don't you miss those ways of staving
off the mundane reckonings
with consequences, goals not met,
failing strength, the ageing self?

 

 

Rainy Day in Makriyianni

Athens, Greece

I visualise exactly how it is
in Makriyianni: the streets
are grey, the greengrocer
has tangerines out on display,
the Clementines that colour
dull December; the Afghan
refugee who feeds the pigeons
and the feline strays will make
his way down backstreets,
an ambassador for peace.

Aloof from traffic on its crest,
the glistening Acropolis,
pine trees hung with crystals pinned
like fibulae upon its breast. 

 

 

A Bird and the River

A tiny bird floats on its back
as if at home upon the stream
that bears it swiftly past the pontoon’s
piers and struts, towards the sea.

The fledgeling’s rosebud feet
are furled, its eyes closed; keel
bone uppermost; serrated wings a cradle
and a casket for the downy breast;
heart and silent throat at rest,
the body weightless, eluent
upon the tidal pulse and ebb,
offered to flight’s element.

How intricately made this frame,
how fine the tender arc of breast –
unblemished plumage dry,
the pinions curved symmetric as a lyre;
a natural canoe, the neat, beaked
crown a prow to brave the flux –
the river vast and treacherous;
the rite of passage effortless.

A human body, cast into the spate,
would not possess this grace:
only such a small, winged craft
can navigate the current’s haste -
composed amid turbidity, serene in death;
concrete on the brink of its abstractedness.

Shortlisted, Montreal International Poetry Prize 2013; published in the Global Anthology,
Véhicule Press, Montreal 2014.

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