I met them here, swooping over the water,
as if the Nile were Loch Croispol in Sutherland.
How sensible to glide up insects
in the warmth of an Egyptian winter
instead of gouging at iced-up bird tables.
We have both escaped the manacles of bare-branched trees
and cement-hard soil.
Light wings over the water.
The sun burns down.
Dark-skinned boys row out in wooden feluccas
to make circles out of nets
and catch glittering perch
that flap at the strangeness of air.
Traffic bays past over the steel bridge.
A papyrus seller presses his voice at me.
Cairo thrums out its colours:
the browns and greens of the Nile;
its hysterically blue skies.
Swallows slant towards insects
as they did at home.
I work on - as I did.
When I meet them again,
in the cool breezes of a Scottish summer,
I will think of this,
and how I too tried to catch Africa.
This poem is from Sailing the Sands, published by Dionysia Press.
The book, Sailing The Sands, may be ordered from Dionysia Press at http://www.dionysiapresscatalogue.wordpress.com.
fur-stroke of warmth,
purr-space of time,
my knee cats
through the morning
peaceful and slow
while the sun
clothes my neck
with warm silk
And a cool breeze
touches me gently
as if with wonder.
By these Roman walls,
a harbour laps light,
boats creak, yawn,
mountains stretch repose
out to the horizon.
A cat has pounced
this quietness at me,
licks my hand
free of cares,
curls time round
in a tight ball
and keeps it safe.
This poem is from Birdsong and Flame, published by KT Publications.
The white marble front's stripped off now,
the concrete blast-bruised, dark.
This was a bank, tall with shining windows,
the building neat as their rows of figures.
I was at Maslak, teaching a class.
I was herding words like lambs
through gateways that refused to stay still,
when an ambulance complained past.
At break-time, news scattered from TVs.
There was a bomb at the HSBC.
Lives were spilled.
They gushed about like rivers.
Days later, I stand here carefully,
gazing at the partitioned-off disaster
behind its steel rails. I turn my back,
but cannot leave this behind me.
This poem is from The City That Moved, published by Dionysia Press. It may be ordered from their website: http://www.dionysiapresscatalogue.wordpress.com.
The Friday Group Hike (Auldearn) Rain swarms down like a hostile horde of barbarians, as our road passes a quagmire of tractor tracks and puddles. There would have been a view of a fort once; now a grassy mound and an abandoned doocot stare back from its space. There would have been a view of a battle once where two ideas slogged it out, blood the victor. Now one foot leads the other, one piece of conversations follows the other on our path through the present. A swan upturns in a pond, as a crow rasps a rough file through sky Red berries soften the spike of holly branches. An SUV sounds the alarm bell of its engine, its lights sweeping at us like cutlasses. We pass the bareness of birches, and the crowding of houses as we reach the village. Our path has curved round on itself as we return to the car park and make geometry of our day.
This poem won first prize in the Robin Lloyd-Jones Autumn Voices Competition judged by Sally Evans in 2020.
MORE TURKISH POEMS Display Voices stand to attention as the Turkish anthem drifts surprisingly thinly across the court. The youth carrying the flag smiles. The principal shows his practised frown. Our eyes are pointed towards him, but not necessarily our minds. Girls' tartan skirts flounce. Boys' boyishness is tied in by ties. A cat treads across the court in un-uniformed tabby and white. It sniffs the air, pauses, and stares at our still bodies. It puts a slow paw ahead of slow paw, pauses again, gazes round as if afraid it has walked into some gladiatorial arena for cats. Its tail flicks. It rushes up the steps and away. Eight hundred strong, we aim our eyes ahead. Eight hundred people who dare not say hello to one cat.
Cats Cats swish tails in ginger, tabby, black, or white. They river past, curious, busy, never-ending. They sear the air with yowling before purring bone-china rhythms. They unpick fish-heads daintily. They green-eye imperatives at complete strangers eating fish in street cafes. They glide past empty tables. They puzzle paws through wrappers in dustbins. They glance up and scurry down, while, elegant as fashion, yet another cat slinks a waif-look walk.
Fury Is Universal Coffee, table, seat. It must be an Istanbul weekend. The sun boasts sun-ness, warmth. Then outside the cafe and opposite, a woman launchers her voice as grenade, explodes a different moment. Her face and body point at someone above us that we cannot see. Her voice flows flat notes fluently in words I cannot recognise, fast and Turkish. I understand her anger and respect it, but don't know the why and the who. No reply falls helpfully from above. She stops for a moment as anger further distorts her face with self-justification and her voice bursts her feelings from their prison. Perhaps they've been held there for years. I've no idea what she's saying but I know what she means.
Waiter His smile's exact like the press on the shirt and pants he wears. He bows. He steps forward, back. He gives, then gathers. His cloth flicks neatness onto tables. He carefully manoeuvres with his plates towards the poise that is Turks in weekend breakfast restaurants. He makes an instant turn, scuttles off, scurries back. His movements flicker between papers open at Sunday morning. The sun eases down; time coffee-cups on, hurries no one else.
Yellow Taxi A Turk shifts in the driver's seat, performs the sleight of breath called smoke. Pleased with the trick, he keeps repeating it. I haul the door, reveal his landscape, black plastic, and stubble, then enter it. Handbrake, clutch, gear, accelerator sequence the moment's grunt and push at tarmac. The taxi spurts yellow, before the slow fritter of a traffic jam. There's an awkward miss and skid from a rush at the same space. The horn cock-a-doodles the male statement of 'I'. The engine canters again before the eased halt. Money gives crumpled thanks.