The first collection of poems I wrote were set in North Cyprus. That was 1995 - the year I became a poet. Almost 15 years later, I’ve written another collection, this time during a week in Tenerife. These are early drafts… My plan is to publish all 24 here.
Are you Atlantis darling,
or am I misdirected?
I met a camel trader,
a Guanche that never shaved,
but read my love of age.
I’ve come in search of string
to link islands connected
by Hades‘ common Saviour,
the folk of Teide waved
I have a path with wings:
a Celtic shallow disects
ocean streams that were
a way from Drago braved
- a Homer tale I wage.
Atlantic dreamers, gigantic gold,
the golden apple in shade of Atlas.
Tenerife, you know what’s to be told.
Breakfast in Mare Nostrum
There is far too much food
served up for travellers.
Never seen such piles
plums pawpaw platefuls
They call this holiday,
I call it faraway madness.
There are ten thousand sausages in Mare Nostrum:
Beijing, eat your heart out.
It’s payback time for Nelson’s Arm:
the Guanches of Tenerife stuff you
on sliced meat.
The First Dip
It’s the water that’s chilling me,
not the wind in from the sea,
nor the breeze of the bay.
The cold between toes is quickly borne
and the arteries around my knees
recovering from the pinch.
It’s when the swimming pool meets
the soft inside of my thigh
I feel the Irish winter shiver.
I am more used to frost and damp.
Mothers’ Day Haiku Muddle
We all have one I suppose
She sits in background
I am my mother
There is an island in this fountain pool,
intelligence at the heart of a watery beat,
a birdless place where children float from school,
all built, constructed, the image of a one-eyed beast.
Here the flow is on when a switch is thrown,
the shower falls in a dependable rhythm,
a complex designed when first the germ was sown
in a shallow dream where the architects’ team hum.
I came out crying from a liquid place,
my uterine shouts ignored, no echo splayed.
From here I see the sky and float in space
caressing sunlight with flickering eyelash made.
The concrete and the jungle twine below
the undergrowth of mind over time will show…
This will burn off
so your skin may fry
Trust those morning clouds
to give way: lie
Tan the flesh
I need the exercise,
I’ve been pumping-up all year.
They say water aerobics
is the new black,
so I’m joining in.
hopping in the pool
float my waistline.
Starboard or port,
twirl or pivot,
pushing my bulk
- this is the life.
below the surface
as up front
three lithe figures
pulsate with painted toenails
and body-fat indices,
with a ratio half my age.
How the exercise frees the mind
to compare like with unlike.
On first reading Stieg Larsson
I must be the last one to begin
to climb this mountain from Sweden.
Sucked into three volumes,
best sellers, more sold that Dan Brown.
This is catch-up, keeping in touch
popular taste. What marketing:
hand over three books, die,
reap the reward.
I am afraid to think,
there is a story to eat,
a journey I can only afford
The woman in the brown cardigan smokes
The ring on her middle finger matches
the buckle of the sandal.
She’s a player in a murder mystery,
plans it all over breakfast,
The other lady has pink lipstick in grey hair,
dark marscara, a hint of eye-brow,
she’s the victim.
No one eats an identical breakfast.
I see my face in the glass,
my shadow in the water,
ripples all over.
A plastic cup, transparent,
floats on surface-tension.
This is where stream meets dream,
undercurrent courts wave
- the story of the pool.
Indigo tiles, sky-blue play-mates:
we have a playground here.
A pipe pumps a push of liquid disturbance
into the mix.
A slight finger-slip
bikini-top falls, reveals
a blink of nipple
The Germans are loud
carelessly proud of their breasts
Heil pool of sunlight
Above the pine line
I am above the pine line,
beyond the growth I’m used to.
From here the cablecar climbs
to the Devil’s Mouth.
The black and brown of Volcanoland,
cinders that would tear flesh,
have burnt hearts.
The monster at the core of Teidi prowls
on the draft.
This machine metal, electric force,
carries sacrifice, as Abraham did,
as Cowen should have.
We are all children suspended
Is that a tealeaf I read?
The fire is bitter here,
even in sun wind blows
across the mouth,
a breath of ice exhale,
bodies crush into cablecar.
I crave the warmth of a stranger’s breath,
reminds me of Babel’s Tower.
We have no need of familiarity,
only bodies recovering
from sight of another side.
"I never have two tomatoes for breakfast,
strictly melons for me,
maybe an espresso or three."
"Oh, I’m a hot milk man.
The morning after Rioja,
I prefer fried eggs with split yokes,
pineapple and strawberries too."
"In that case, I’ll have a double helping of raspberries,
- provided they’re not sweet."
"There’s a man with a bald head staring;
I bet you anything he’s sipping Cava
with a smirk on his face.
He’s the type that puts pepper on his porridge."
"I saw a German eating cheese."
"So what? The Spanish are inclined
to wipe the jam off with napkins."
"You’re right, there’s something asparagus-like
about all these continentals."
"Do you see that belly-button over there,
carrying baguette and imitation Parma?
She’ll be on to scrambled egg later,
before the pool.
"Your milk is gone."
"So’s your coffee."
"Fancy a dip in pawpaw juice?"
"I thought you’d never ask."
"Remember the figs in Lawrence’s novel?"
"The film you mean…"
The old breasts are out,
the well-used ones that flop.
Some slip to each side,
like a pair of tyres in balance,
But I can see a few retired retreats,
as if crumpled wallpaper.
The glory days are past,
I’m sure they are still recalled on lonely nights,
when there’s need for re-affirming balm.
The young breasts are off at work,
topping up the next generation,
or cleavage-joy for the hunt.
I love the wizened eyes,
The Man from the East
He came from Kiev,
Minsk or Moscow
on laundered money,
I was that sure.
He was too well-developed
to be a rugby player,
but he might have been
I noticed his big toe,
broader than my wrist,
size sixteen shoes,
no military tatoos
- certainly not from Intelligence.
He wore a French football shirt:
in a crowded goalmouth,
he’d give no one a half-chance.
I played with his child,
the blond curls,
threw coins into the pool
for two "smallies" to reach.
From seventy metres
the giant trained every eye
on every touch I laid
on his successor.
Going up Teide
I have a mountain to climb,
a caldera to traverse:
magma strewn, lava sown.
I wish the Devil would stretch
down to hoist me from this scree
I burn in the light
no grassblade or lichen grows
a dead volcano
The Devil stole the sun,
until the sky god Chaman
heard the beggars’ play
and scattered the ash
on the National Park.
Slow Coach to Whales
A coach to Loro Parque,
neither sky nor sea alive.
Vines before bloom,
a conventional motorway,
a stanza on the lower deck
with "A Scattering" for company,
a few colouring pens
- Millenium I finished now.
My child’s hair matted,
she needs her mother.
I’m fascinated by the open mouth
and raw tongue of a sleeping man
in dark glasses:
he too hasn’t shaved today.
We’ll be there in a minute,
I see a Lidl sign and palms,
but I have to twist round
to see where the driver has reached.
Half a banana, plumbago, downhill.
A glimpse of the John Katzenbach
- "Al Hombre Equivacado" -
which the bald man,
with wristwatch on the right,
hides under an orange waterproof.
Downhill slope to the seaside,
a stop to drop off the neighbours.
With my six words of Spanish
I’m told the Parque is on its way
in five minutes.
Teide has no smile today,
a scowl, stop-starting,
I make the man at the wheel
into a trickster
that lured me
into a marathon…
Hurray, the gates of Loro Parque.
Striking Lizards After Lunch
I’m going to get a lizard with my stick,
find the long tail in the shade,
disturb its curve,
scatter brittle leaves and dust,
rustle dried stems.
I’ll get my ice cream later.
It’s not often I get the chance
to strike with a sword of palm,
to be a knight errant.
I look for signs of unfinished developments,
concrete blocks, roofless walls,
empty shells, undercoats of paint
left to flake,
a bridge without a ramp,
a quarry boarded up,
a car park promised,
a site abandoned to weather.
Surely the detritus of the market
hasn’t let Tenerife off the hook?
Pescado del dia, grilled,
these small soapy potatoes in salt too.
I like my mojo
finished with red chilli peppers.
The Wind from Africa
The wind from Africa landed,
all consuming virus,
sticky, clammy, a shirt that clings.
I see its heat. There is no warmth in it.
Calima took the fresh air,
replaced it with a fog.
Is that blue sky or a blanket of cloud?
Are we completely covered?
It’s not a wind that’s come to take over,
Invisible visibility, a disabling visitor.
The energy that was here is gone.
The day is taken from me. Invaded.
Incense from the Weather God.
This is a reminder: assume nothing.
A new force is just around the corner.
"Packing-up is so very hard to do..."
The Last Breakfast,
familiar mixture of melon, grape,
kiwi, pawpaw, apricot, grain, fruit juice…
across the table from the pancake,
the salt and pepper in glass, see through,
unclogged holes punched into stainless steel,
the pigeon calls, palms sway,
the blue towel claiming ritual,
the broken-down coffee dispenser
that ground beans and dribbled
half decent caffine.
We are all holiday-makers now,
all slotting into place
- as I gather goods and chattels
and look round for my Judas.
The Last Swim
The final plunge is nigh,
an underwater experience
in blue mosaic.
One last look at rippling reflections,
as the fountain tumbles
into the Mare Nostrum Resort.
Grand Central Station,
La Piazza del Mundo.
It’s a father’s job to be pushed under
by his daughter,
to throw her off his back,
to see her crash face down,
until all the hair floats,
and it crosses the mind
how precious she is,
and worth rescuing.
I see the yellow peaked cap
from Loro Parque,
the red parrot, the blue of the orca.
I see the girl with dark apricot
curls that fall long down the back
of a body suit designed to protect
fair skin from burning.
I spot a suggestion of mucous,
her chest coughs.
"Daddy, I want a sausage"
and I know immediately
it’s not food she’s after.
It’s a sea horse,
a float for play,
the same the oldies use
for their exercise
in the same pool.