'Picking Olives' – All Island No Sea
I watch an elderly neighbour wilt, through our kitchen
window’s frosted glass. A tracksuited teenager
offers her water. My muddy fleece matches
the communal garden opposite, your bump
almost bigger than our packed fridge, spitting
out the snacks you crave. I’m wearing my best
smile, making a joke so funny that drivers
on the road below rubberneck; the open freezer
door reveals family photos, holiday magnets. I wash
salad, prepare olives. You shriek, we’re clutching stomachs,
and I hear neighbours in the garden tearing up
roots. I’m viewing our lives from under our spot-
light; planting olive pits and watching you grow –
our little one kicking; changing life as we know.
'I Scrape the Earth Underneath This Pram' – All Island No Sea
to celebrate the moment I am here
with my new-born – like initials on a tree.
I use twigs to uncover beetles – I hold
them up to mark the occasion.
The hills huddle around the city; wear
clouds like oversized sombreros.
Mid-day reflects off the pram’s frame, Spring
uncovers fingerprints. The young
group behind play George Harrison’s
‘Here Comes the Sun’, under parasols.
I’m sat on a memorial bench, my foot
above the pram’s brake. They grow up so fast,
It’s time to saunter home to feed. Rock
climbers reach the cliff top beside us –
unhook heavy clips; like my changing
bag’s small straps, swinging
during our easy roadside stroll.
The athletes negotiate ice cream, throw down ropes;
smiles and sweat drip over cones.
I savour the surroundings a last time and notice
the plaque behind me: ‘Johnny spent
such a happy childhood here’.
Lift my neck, the view beneath the cliff
pops up like my son’s toy firefly.
Youth will fall behind, but happiness
can be found at any time.
'Yellow dress' – White Eye of the Needle
You pose in a yellow dress
On a heated patio,
Smile as cool as Tignes:
It resists the midday sun.
I want to pause a minute
As you stroke your curled, dark hair,
For a lockdown seems forever
Without your beauty there.
Olives sunbathe in their oil,
Swelter side by side,
Our hedge slumps over brick,
An aged window pipes out bakhoor.
I sweat, still, burning this to memory,
You glisten like an Asanga,
Dress draws me in, a gentle tide,
Curves soft in lemon.
'Mister Painter' – White Eye of the Needle
Houses rub shoulders,
Paint falls like peeling skin
And I ask where the sea is
Amongst the rubble and the dirt: a small face–
School kids back off the bus. They joke,
Skip and dance, and the hills roll in
The background like silent guardians,
Waiting for the rain.
An old man grips a rubbish bag
Like a painter needs his pots,
'Paint this part, Mister' say the kids,
Pointing at gaps in the houses. And he sweeps
His brush, coarse as a wave, heavy
As rain. This too will age.
'Chimney snorkels' – White Eye of the Needle
We reach a corner and catch a couple
Hand in hand–keep our distance,
Fingers away from our faces.
The light has faded, unveiling
The moon; a crescent with a single star
Below–as if they arrived to a night’s party together.
The canal glistens, narrowboats like guards on shift,
Replacing daytime geese patrol.
From thin, black chimney snorkels,
Smoke invades the crisp air, putrid and thick,
A woman sits in a saloon, back to the open door,
Asserting a point to male companions.
The cafés and pubs look empty, but in the
Distance a ‘Pizza’ neon sign bends the horizon,
Who has the dough for electricity while
No one bakes and not a soul visits?
Underneath a bridge, a man waits by the path,
His coat is zipped up tight; he seems bemused,
Anxious. Flashing an impatient look, his eyes
Brighten in the dark. He lets us pass in silence.
I gesture a thank you–his mouth looks like it opens,
But it hides behind a mask.