Turtle Soup

Your grandmother’s, this set
of six. I imagine her, fine-boned and elegant,
serving turtle soup in these bowls. Delicate
as eggshells, they nestle in their saucers
while golden turtles drift
around their sides, motionless 
against a hidden tide.
 
Remember how we dived with turtles
in sun-sparkled waters of the Gulf;
how you admired their leisured grace,
the slow speed of their flippers
as they flew the sea like air. 
Remember how one night we watched 
hatchlings splutter from their nests, 
tumble down moon-
white sand to bounce
like pennies into hungry surf –
 
hatchlings as tiny as these bowls
that I will never use 
for turtle soup.

This poem was originally published in The Beach Hut

Old Wounds

When they stripped the ivy from the oak, he could see
the scar – the trunk’s flesh peeled away
to expose deep tissue, fibre pale as bone
where a limb was ripped by lightning
forty years ago.

Perhaps the oak had welcomed concealment,
the stranglehold of ivy, green
through all the seasons, all the years.
Watching from his bed the play of light
and shade, he pondered

how memories abide in trees – he recalled
thorns like bone needles, neatly paired,
glinting through the silver green of leaves;
the fissured texture of the bark;
seedpods, pendulous

as crescent moons; and how fiercely that day
he had focussed on the acacia, its details,
so that he did not have to look
at what was on the ground, nor at the vultures
above, in holding patterns.

‘Old Wounds’ was originally published in 192 Poetry Magazine.

Turbulence

Upstream in pools where the water barely flowed but for a gentle kissing
of the rocks, a tremor in the mirrored clouds – water transparent as air, sprung
from the mountain’s flank, too cold for bilharzia-bearing snails –
we found a duiker
its hide beginning to flake, its eyes glazed,
its legs stiff. We tensed too, my brothers and I,
in the cold shock of our discovery. I had not known
death before. Not this close. This unexplained.

The sun’s heat bounced off the rocks, drew out the fragrance of the grass. Death
did not belong here. Take its legs.
Our feet slipping on riverbed pebbles, we dragged the duiker through the pools
to where the stream began to quicken, to leap over hidden rocks,
swirl in eddies against the banks. Near the precipice
the river’s tug became too strong and we released the carcase to the current.
It floated haphazardly, tiny hooves bumping alternately
against the wavelets and the sky. We ran along the bank
to where the river abandoned all containment and hurled
down a vastness of rock. The duiker disappeared
in that foaming plunge towards the mist-green Honde valley. Above us,
white-necked ravens rode rollercoasters of air.

‘Turbulence’ was placed third in the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society Folio Competition 2020.

Today, I hold on to small things

The dance of light on fissured bark.
A conker’s polished sheen.

Angled petals of red and gold. Fine stems
that tether whirling butterflies.

An oak leaf’s quiet surrender
to the gentle spikes of grass.

My grandson’s fingers
curled around mine

as we skip from east to west
and back to east again.

Greenwich

September 2020

This poem is pinned to Greenwich Park on the Places of Poetry website: