In this still bay, limestone blue,
the fall of mountain steep with scree.
Clumps of hard grass grip the slope, shorn
like valleys I have seen in eastern Turkey.
Don’t tell the Greeks, don’t tell the Turks;
some of them at least. The far mountains,
covered in a haze of sun and clouds,
look like the Anatolia I have seen.
In this still bay, mountains rise,
while men sit around, drink coffee, complain;
until one day the earth trembles,
rips the land apart, and the mountains
sink into the sea.
Birds roost in caves, menace to keep their space,
until they too move on, or are banished.
We talk about this place, but we talk too much.
This place is about mountains, born from the sea,
from Venetians, Ottomans, Turks, Greeks;
everything that belongs to yesterday.
Everything that belongs to today.
One day a volcano exploded under the sea,
raised mountains. The volcano is still here.
Green peppers torn off a plant on a top floor balcony. Cook them in olive oil, Roula says. The owner, Nitsa, is sick. The peppers will die in the pot. Take them. Nitsa cannot use them now. Everything grows in pots. Even three floors up. Nitsa is in hospital in Thessaloniki. Two hours away. Take all the peppers. They are ready to eat. I don’t know how long she will be gone. The doctors say Nitsa might have stomach cancer. That is why she has been coughing so much. Here, take some tomatoes. My arms are full of peppers. Roula stacks tomatoes on top of them. It is hot. I have to water Nitsa’s plants while she is gone. Roula cuts the basil with scissors. Here, take some basil and put it in a glass of water. It will last for days. Nitsa was happy when we arrived last month. We were her new neighbours. Take some. Take some mint, too. She was disappointed when we said we would only stay two months. Water every day, or the plants will die, Roula says. Nitsa had apologised for coughing. She wanted to have coffee with us. Have someone to talk to. Cook the green peppers. In olive oil and lemon. Nitsa did not come back.
You Are Not You Anymore
The river has dried up; reeds are still green
but without the sound of frogs buried
in the murky sand of the river bottom.
A white-faced heron stands in the middle
of a wooden bridge; waits
as two ducks walk on the river bed.
The rest of life has moved downstream,
left the gutted tract till it rains, somewhere,
Eyes like rocks
in the middle of the river once ravaged the silence
of the gorge, threw the torrent
onto the banks of the old course,
hard like the trunk of a deep-rooted tree.
The land is stilled, as if salted,
gives no flowers. Like the sky turned black,
the tortured branch, the hole in the earth
after a tree has toppled in a storm.
It is quiet;
the quiet after the wind has died down,
the quiet after a much-loved king has died.
An earthquake has torn the land apart,
the only sound a lone tiger, its reach a large bird
straining its wings, its screech uncontained
as it surges over the wall, wooded land,
to the open plains, away from here.
terns low over rough water,
an island offshore; grit
and the crash of waves on cliffs,
long rods and buckets, spools and
cleats. Looking for a part of me,
inside the pictures
I keep stored. I yearn for winter
on a distant island,
looking for barn swallows
and blackbirds and
olive trees and stray dogs,
and wild figs.
Ion Corcos has been published in Panoply, Clear Poetry, Communion, The High Window and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Ion is a nature lover and a supporter of animal rights. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is www.ioncorcos.wordpress.com and he tweets at @IonCorcos