Poetry by John Short

BACK TO THE GREENHOUSE

I could even now go back there,

pass winter on the southern coast,

tend tomatoes in greenhouses so hot

you dunk your vest then slap it on 

and it’s dry again by the row’s end.

They show you how to maybe twice

then you’re alone, avoiding wasps,

scanning snowy mountains where

the partisans hid out. One time I had

a refugee in my hut, seeking work. 

I gave him space and in the morning

when the boss walked in he sat up,

thrust a cigarette at that leather face

by way of introduction or ingratiation:

outside, a world of mud and plastic,

splintered palettes unfit for purpose;

old rusted trucks like the skeletons

of beasts where sun pokes through.

ON PHILOPAPPOS HILL

Athens

My father has come to visit

so I take him for a walk:

we climb dust paths through tall pines,

ascend levels of micro-climate

the morning fresh with cones and jasmine,

eucalyptus, wild oregano,

turn the bend to suddenly behold

a steel and concrete sea.

I point to landmarks here and there:

a tower, hotel or ancient ruin,

attempt to impress him with knowledge

of a foreign place but, as always

he is not to be impressed

by any aspect of my world

yet remarks upon the stamina I show

as the city roars and hoots below.

Says he needs to get back to his garden.

About the contributor

John Short was born in Liverpool and went to Leeds University. Later he spent some years in the south of Europe working in fields and factories and as an English teacher in Spain before settling for a long period in Athens.

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