Hair of Crocus

by Cornelia Rohde

Lay a saffron stigma on your tongue.
Watch it bleed deep golden, the glow of Cleopatra’s
skin after diffusing pinches of it in her love-bath.
At Nero’s orgiastic bashes, cakes lewdly squirted
bursts of yellow when squeezed by bawdy guests,

and Pliny the Elder suggested ‘hair of crocus’
in wine to cure a hangover. It is a paradox,
that a thin red thread can provoke snorts
of raunchy laughter, yet too much of it
make the liver shrivel, or cause a costly Saffron War.

I want to drink it as pure, radiant ruby tea,
while I look out over a mantle of purple blooms
at Persian fields unfolding in the morning sun.
I will have reveries of amorous Krishna in his golden dhoti,
stealing robes of gopis while they bathe, and conjure up his home,

where I saw a blazing sea of sunflowers turn their faces
to the light, and meadows of shining marigolds
raised for offerings to the gods.
In that land I will be gifted saffron rice again,
and journey with its blessing.

Lesbos

by Liz Trew

summer 2016

Lesbos, where Sappho, slender and passionate
in a light robe leaves us fragments – love-poems
to her daughter, her women, her island

and poet Elytis says, I give my hand to justice
diaphanous fountain, sublimest spring.
I fly in to the airport named after him.

Refugees came in their thousands across
the Aegean. So many brought from war
by water, pulled out to safety
some crushed to death inside their boats
some lost – drowned on their journey.

Days grow hot at the edge of blue ocean
the blueness of longing.
Olive trees inland rise in green waves
the sage-green of hope.

Along lines of tamarisk trees
voices of Babylon on the hot shore
where a mother finds her four children dead
and another struggles to give birth

we villagers gather to receive,
the love of others our belonging

Dimitri of Hotel Aphrodite
flings open his doors,
Aphrodite his daughter dishes out food,
The Dirty Girls collect worn clothes
to wash and return,
Malinda of Starfish cares for the women.

The summer calm. Migrants on
their long walk.
Roads and shore almost empty;
a few slashed rubber dinghies
a few wrecked wooden boats.
Someone has put flowers in a hut
built of lost oars and pieces of flotsam.

I walk on hot stones
sink into a volcanic-hot ocean
rise to cool off and swim.
On the road inland
I fetch bottles of spring water
from the hill fountain. As the sun sets
the image of Mount Athos
appears on the fiery horizon.
The child sleeps
under the summer moon.

Days grow hot O Babylon
Tis cool beneath the olive trees

Spirit of an African Christmas

by Lise Day

“Hark the herald angels sing”
In our thatched rondavel chapel
voices sing the well-loved carols
music carried by sea-breezes
mingles with flea market jangle
marimba and a hundred wind chimes.

“Underneath the mistletoe”
Our advent wreath is dressed
geranium red, yellow-wood green
blue hydrangea our Christmas rose
hibiscus flare, purple agapanthus
slender dietes our sunlit candles.

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”
Nigerian’s smile flashes white
intricate beadwork tempts the shopper
bright chameleon, turquoise gecko
but in pride of place displayed
beaded reindeer scarlet in the sun.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly”
Shopping malls with gaudy baubles
plastic pine and garish tinsel
suddenly lose their stale appeal
gain a sparkle, luster reflected
in the eyes of delighted child.

“In the East they saw a star”
Far from frozen Northern customs
commercial glitz of Western world
here in the warm and vibrant South
may the message still be manifest
peace, love, goodwill to all mankind.

Kalk Bay Sauntering

by Michael Keeling

A quiet swell encourages the waves
breaking on shallow rocks.
Sun lifts the morning mist
defining the mountain top.

Fishermen change bait
cursing the unseen catch
while boats splutter noisily
to their moorings.

Black, white, red, green,
multicoloured fishing fleet,
chunky sturdiness,
vessels of purpose.

Rods settled in holding sleeves
idling fisherfolk await
the tell-tale jerk of action
and the tightening line.

Persuasive sun sheds top-coats
from T-shirts mid-banter bragging
last night’s exaggerated conquest
and the eager anticipation of coming events.

Steering clear of a dozing seal
claiming its rightful territory
we head for lunch along the crowded jetty
and consume the catch of the day.

Pistachios

by Pamela Newham

Cyprus airport one a.m.
Two women waiting for a flight.
Around us suntanned holidaymakers
stretch out on metal benches
as a tinny voice announces again
our flight has been delayed.

Two dark-eyed boys with stubble chins
want to buy us red wine.
We say no but they tell us
they are Iranians no one wants
and have been in transit for days.
So we let them buy us wine
and when they come back
they pile pistachios on the table.

They tell us they are taxi drivers
and we pretend to believe
their wild tales and they
pretend to be shocked
when they hear
they are half our age.
We laugh and flirt tasting
the saltiness of the pistachios
and the roughness of the wine
until finally they call our flight
and we hug like old friends
or maybe lovers.

An unexpected adventure
so many years ago and yet
whenever I slide my nail between
the slick shell and crack open
a pistachio I recall a hot night
and boys nobody wanted.

 

 

Essential Papers

by Angela Prew

How many people, I wonder,
lie in bed, memory gone, awareness lost,
at crucial times in their lives.
Now, memory returned,
we know you failed,
at that time,
that time between life and death,
to renew permission to live with me
in this, my pleasant land.

We rushed to put it right, to the office
where they sent us across town
to another office where,
snowed under with requests,
they put your papers
into a file under many others
and there they stayed.
We visited on the given day
every month,
but no movement was detected.

Four months, many phone calls later,
they noticed your age, signed the papers.
Back to the first office, across town,
where, they said, your papers were now filed
in Pretoria.
Delays followed. They moved to bigger offices
and, again, we sit,
waiting……

Lament for the Stones

by Annette Snyckers   

 
No longer sure-footed
after my father’s death,
some days I was brought
to tears
for the smooth round rocks
lying motionless
in the riverbed.

Over millennia they kept still,
had their edges knocked off,
until scoured sleek,
they lie ovoid, oblong, squat
and suffer in stoic silence
the floods and droughts.

Perhaps they delight in the lizards,
the leguan,
the dragonflies,
the dainty steps
of the Klipspringer.

The Smell of Summer

by Annette Snyckers

Summer climbs steadily to the solstice,
flings its fragrance on the breeze.
Draped under the privet bush,
a lacy veil of small white flowers
wafts the smell of childhood,
shakes memories from that dusty cache –
images of tricycles and boy cousins,
of bubble bathing suits and bees,
of holidays and Christmas coming
and the majestic mulberry tree,
a feast of purple mouths and teeth
and suddenly, resurgent,
the sickening smell
of stinkbug
on a perfect berry.

Stopover

by Annette Snyckers

Like carton cut-outs, row upon row,
the mountains shift past the car window –
bruise-blue, grey-blue,
to the palest shade of sky –
we travel through a land bereft of rain
where poplars on farms
flutter gold and amber
and palm trees lean in the wind –
tall and tolerant, they wave
black shadows over solitary white houses.
The dirt road sails like a snake through dips
and over ridges of the foothills —
far ahead a car drags a streamer of dust
through the afternoon heat.

Four hours from the city
my mind leaves behind the clutter,
content to hum in thinking
of nothing much —
and how tonight I’ll sleep in a place
where stars splutter silver light
over a black velvet night
and where the church bell strikes —
every quarter hour
that remains of my life.

Brexit

by Angela Prew

When the most important person,
the Great Panjandrum,
thinks he knows his people,
how they think and how they vote,
then it’s time for resignation, for life
far from the limelight
a little cottage out of sight;
before he calls a referendum and
the 70% he thought were on his side
become 52% against. And
48% of Britons find themselves
mere ‘Little Englanders’ with
European benefits withdrawn.