Swimming with a Charm of Vincent
Vincent couldn’t sit still.
While I was fiddling with my phone
he was looking round at the view,
the girls, the Adriatic colours.
When we went for a swim
he kept his straw hat on.
I waddled on hard pebbles,
stubbed my toe; he smiled.
He asked if we could visit Fazio’s
on the way back. I agreed.
I knew he’d order Sambucca
then wince at its sweetness.
I think he liked the green hills,
the fortified villages,
vineyards and farmsteads,
ancient and scatter-down.
We were rubbing along ok.
I figured he’d stick around,
but we drove to the coast again
and while I swam he vanished.
Maybe he was troubled
by the lack of sunflowers;
perhaps just pining for France?
He wasn’t much of a talker.
I stopped at Fazio’s bar
and drank a cold Peroni
under a blue umbrella,
my back to the warm wall.
The persimmon sun sank down
all his whirling stars came out
and I thought of Vincent
rolling with the pebbles in the sea.
How could I know a River?
A painted river moves through my dreams.
Some mornings I wake gasping,
beached on the shore of an imagined life.
I went to see a hokum diviner,
described the water, its turbulence
battering my heart, filling my lungs.
She asked the colour of the scene:
Egret at first light, red deer at dusk.
What words pooled upon my pillow?
I told her I saw the river’s gillie
moving slowly through whispering flies
miles from the lonely water meadows.
She asked if the river was unhappy?
I couldn’t say. How could I know a river?
All I knew is I was pulled to its flow,
to the small shy fish, the slip of pebbles
glinting under alder boughs,
pond skaters testing the river’s rind,
and the drenched velvet depths
folded and dark as Ophelia’s cape
billowing in the gravel and the cress.
Weightless in San Francisco
i). Almost a New Day
It’s still solid dark,
the house a husk of breath
as the rumour of morning
slides over my eyelids.
Even in this foreign room
it’s in the air:
An unrequited foghorn sounds
warning someone who cares
there’s a hole in the world
where confusion blows in.
ii). Haight Ashbury Morning
The chalk white concrete sidewalks;
the screens of parked cars, canted up and down
all shining from the hillside grid:
San Francisco shimmers like no other town.
It has a feeling of altitude
as a Bolivian city might,
a mountain thinness in the air
unwarranted by its actual height –
for there’s the ocean, lapping the headlands
and the harbour, cold and silver and bright.
iii). In a Hayes Bistro
A girl with piano-gloss hair
watches me sideways and sly
while I shake and spill my beer.
A trembling man, toasting
the short span of mayflies.
Six months ago,
half the world away,
they lit on my swim-puckered skin
like the sympathy of a nurse,
the blessing of a priest
or the imagined kiss
of a lover too many years
too young for me.