4 poems from GREEK PASSAGES
NEA KIOS (1)
Great curve of bay, great curve of disco bars, with
yard depots further back, old tourism clutter in heaps,
separated by a perimeter fence and a bunch of reeds
from the remains of the Lake of Lerna. Still water,
choked, smoke rising beyond the westward horizon
and a bell ringing.
An ancestral immunity to malaria (many-headed beast)
among fishers and tenders of small water-mills,
not shared with passing geographers and exiled dramatists...
Last juice of Mycenae trickling down from the hills,
oil snake on the water, what form of world leads us
out of this, what demography carries the soul westward?
“But if the entire Manifest
of the world is absorbed into
the world will be destroyed.”
The disco bars are magnificent architectural fantasies
in honour of the young heart bags of cash and great balls of fire.
Low white houses scattered on humps of bare earth,
some of them locked, some of them falling down. Among them
a new tank, a bright new block with a blue pipe attached.
Low white hopes, some of them fallen.
1913, rows of faces at a colonial boys’ school in South Africa.
A few of them can speak Xhona but they don’t let it be known.
Buried hopes germinate. To know the language, to learn the sayings:
Everything is for those who have none of it.
Hilltop citadels, defended positions for the exploitation
of areas of production on lower ground. Foreign stations,
exacting “tribute” on pain of punishment or erasure.
And accumulating a surplus, of cash, of days, becoming
“civilised”, exercising “culture”. Expert horsemanship,
expert cruelty, expert appetite. Art, another new block
and never gaining anything, living a frustrated anger
that burns along the coast
and guides kings to their wreck.
NEA KIOS (2)
Coming down that little road
to the sea near Mili, that calm, level,
vast pool of light before us.
Coming down that little road
and later walking the dark shore
near the abandoned factory, a few waders
in the shallows, perhaps a spoonbill.
How the money came and slopped around shouting “new”
and was gone. Where did it go?
Debris scattered on the shore,
and the bright white new apartment blocks,
standing in the waste land like refrigerators,
like sealed money-boxes.
The truth is always just outside
the lines or boundaries of the land,
the forms of, tales of, melodies, of.
That little, final, road. A heron
standing knee-deep in the light,
carefully studying it.
peterriley’s selected poems, Passing Measures, was published by
Carcanet in 2000, and Alstonefield ( a long poem), in 2003. A
book of Transylvanian travel sketches, The Dance at Mociu, has
appeared from Shearsman Books,
and a book of three poem sequences, A
Map of Faring, from Parlor Press in U.S.A. His most recent
publications are two retrospecive books of prose and poetry from
Shearsman, The Days Final Balance,
and The Llyn Writings.
He lives in retirement in Cambridge.