Patrick Lodge was born in Wales, lives in Yorkshire and travels on an Irish passport. His prizewinning poems – which have been published in magazines and anthologies in Australia, New Zealand, Greece, USA, Ireland and the UK – have been described as enjoyable for their relish of language and their ample sense of what poetry might accommodate.
His debut collection, An Anniversary of Flight, was published by Valley Press in 2013.
Please visit Valley Press to buy and read more about the book.
At the top of the village, at the top of the day,
The caldera below is a cooling skillet in the sinking sun.
In Agios Charalambos a white-robed priest flits
Between ikons, lighting the lamps.
Each gutter and flare of candle flame
Reveals miracles performed anew:
Hollow-eyed and churlish a corpse is raised to a second chance;
A dragon flinches before Agios Georgio’s sword.
Between lectern and ikonostasis,
Word and flesh,
The priest chants this joyful mourning of the dying day
He looks at me, narrow-eyed and questing;
“Catholiki”, I mouth, as if this explains anything
About our shared presence here; we are
Priest, chanters and people together.
Call and response have elided, have become one
Under the painted gaze of long dead bishops and saints
A single bell chimes, the sound palpable,
A measuring–rod for the space between silences.
My steps echo its rhythm into the yard,
Down the cobbled slope to the village;
For the congregation below the day is ending
In bars and tavernas
In hopes of wonders to be worked before next day break.
Tiresias the seer comes towards me,
Stands in sun-faded red flowered dress,
Transparent bag stuffed
With gleanings of street and shore.
He holds out a present of driftwood
Bleached and salty, entwined like albino snakes.
Tells me what the birds have said today,
In couplets I cannot understand;
Reclaiming this temple mound from saints and sinners,
He dances off.
In the Café Caryatids an old man rests,
Blue painted chair tilted in the doorway.
He sat there yesterday, will be there tomorrow.
Teeth and pullover holed and brown, he stares
Mute at the road, a drone of tourists passing.
Bacchants and satyrs they follow the umbrella thyrsos
Snake through café chairs and shop front T-shirts,
Short-stepping in rhythm after a guide; yellow tights,
Black ankle boots, she is a queen,
Finding honey in the columns and slabs
Littering the temple site of Apollo; the residue,
A carved henge, faces westwards, leads nowhere
Now, admits to nothing; a lizard’s eye
Unblinking red, through which
Shutters click and cameras flash; the moment
When light folds into darkness remains elusive.
The kouros at Apollonas reclines obtuse against the hillside,
breathes out asphodels in wave-froth to the edge of the cliff.
Tourists climb and slither in search of the shot
To validate memory’s convivial hyperbole.
Unrealised Dionysus, a marble moraine,
A black smudge against the darker quarry wall,
Suffers them; but dreams of standing free of this rock umbilical –
The headland a plinth floating between sea and bluer sky,
Arms raised in welcome to sail and oar.
When the gods went, villagers dropped hammers,
Stopped chipping against the hard grain and
Returned to their goats and groves – their piss-poor soil.
Those terraces, tribal scars cut into the mountain-sides,
In turn abandoned for easier fleeces each Summer boat disgorged;
A new mythology of excess is today’s orthodoxy.
Dionysus, be content to lie, weeping ferns into the pockmark pools
THE LADIES OF DOñA SOFIA
One by one the ladies of Doña Sofia
hatch from shuttered sleep, look up,
smell the spent storm, red with sunrise
and African dust, move its rucksack
of cloud, towards the Sierra Bermeja.
Out they come, tentative, like pupae
Unspun prematurely from chrysalides,
Each touched gently by the sun moving
across the apartment block face.
Sessile dolls suddenly wrenched
free, their limbs rejoicing, they clean.
This is a synchronous choreography;
a bulerias where all hear the rhythm,
know the steps, feel the beat; all hold
the seed of sorrow close to their heart.
Each one cloths a window’s damp smear,
as if waving desperate goodbye
to a lover, until a pin sharp reflection
emerges, like a magic painting,
in which each, in sequence, see blue sky,
apartment blocks, ladies cleaning windows.
Tonight these imagos will metamorphose
their drab for Mass; they will imagine
sins to commit, finger beads for Nostra Senora
de la Rosaria, scrub clean their souls.
THE LOOKY-LOOKY MEN: Murcia, 2013
You can’t see the looky-looky men;
they are translucent, a slight
disturbance of light at table edge,
through which the bay can still be seen.
Shadow figures on clockwork rounds,
they flip-flop ceaselessly around tourist
cafes and beaches like waves rolling in from
Africa to break against a barren shore.
Wound up in some warehouse, circuited,
set off, staggered; each convinced they will
sell something – blinkered to the one a few
tables on, the one a few tables behind.
Specialists in cheap tat – headband torches,
fake DVDs, plastic chinese souvenirs
that glow malevolently green in the dark,
their black faces take on a grave mien.
These men speak but are not heard;
“good stuff, looky looky, give best price”.
Knock off Prada, Chanel, Vuitton hang off
arms and neck dragging down like shackles.
Thousand yard stares quarantine them; they
learn a thousand ways of saying no. Still,
pour another glass of wine, fork the Caesar
salad, admire the view from the terrace.
THE IMMORTAL GAME: Mallorca, 2013
Dot plays a Spanish game
on the black and white patio;
her pieces circled
in a last stand for fun.
There’ll be Ken and Mags,
Trish and Stan,
Les, Judith and John.
Each new arrival
to the set bigged up:
…I could have…
An army of occupation
bivouacked for a week
at the Hotel del Sol.
Rosaria stretches across
the warm sheets
smoothing them flat,
feels the moonlit bay
at Hondagua lap cool
through her fingers;
arranges soap and shampoo
on a glass shelf,
sees her mother placing santos
on the home altar.
to pick up towels
from the bathroom floor,
sees La Naval rise golden
above the peones,
squeezes her daughter’s hand.
She fingers her beads,
feels the notes folded
in her pocket
itch against her thigh.
She swabs the floor,
the smell of bleach
reassuring in its tart emptiness,
its absence of promise.
Terry on the balcony,
black shirt, black slacks,
stands like a charioteer,
stretches each hiking sock,
heel and toe, pegs them
to a nifty plastic dryer
(packs easily, very useful).
He cranes his neck,
on the citronella glimmer,
hears the gintonic clamour;
clocks Dot queening it below,
when you need him?)
bangles and beads,
bright and shiny,
skirt like a valance
under an unmade bed.
Terry winks at the maid,
blows her a kiss off his fingers
and joins the party
to castle Dot’s king.
Should I tell the boy
will not stop
the gentlest ebb
of the bay?
“My wall”, he cries,
dropping on his knees
mouth fixed tragic,
a Greek mask.
“My wall”, he cries,
as the tide rolls on.
He stands tense,
on the darkening beach;
offers a cartoon
Arms held high,
pugilist, fists clenched,
wheedles the outflanking,
Should I tell him
of another boy
who built sand outworks
against a future
as the sea
which washed clean
each crafted sand stele?
No, I pick up
a tattered coat, a stick,*
walk on; as the sun sets
over the Bar Miramar,
the karaoke begins,
sorrows are drowned.
* “An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick”
Sailing to Byzantium, W B Yeats
All poems on this post: © Patrick Lodge
Published with the permission of Patrick Lodge