Eyes Turned South – Anthony Collins

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
2000 Crabbe Memorial Competition – Third Prize
Adjudicator: Anthony and Ann Thwaite

Camped above pebbled sands along the cold
Shoreline, wind-break pegged to screen our raw embrace,
I pledged to fly you to the south one bold
Distant day. Some treasured books, a small shared case
Of clothes (all assets stripped, possessions sold)
Would be our only baggage from the past, this place.
But I packed love on ice, put life on hold.

Clamped to the back-seat of the car after
Love, windows fogged by breath and body heat
To thwart the asphalt voyeur, your laughter
Stirred the elements; a swirl of scudding sleet
On metal like the rush of dancing feet.
I promised you the festive south and long summer
Nights but lost you in this bleak east-coast retreat.

Cramped in a small, locked office after work,
Released from the last spring of coiling eyes,
Your head propped on my shoulder in the dark,
I painted word-pictures of southern skies –
Their towns and cities, hills and plains – to mark
The vast horizons of my love. “All lies”
You whispered later, and your breath snuffed the spark.

Their is no territorial advantage
To be gained by rehearsing all that’s passed:
My mond was far too fixed upon the next stage
To take care of the present; did not forecast
That love would be cast off before the third age
Because I could not nail you to my mast.
Meanwhile your thoughts strayed south, too far, too fast:

The violet and green slopes of Old Provence;
The cobalt Aegean salting a harbour mouth;
The gold and purple squares of sun-soaked Florence…
What bitter irony that the grey North
Sea must be the source of my own renaissance
As I walk these shores alone, a chilled free-lance:
Yet when we parted your hot eyes turned south.

Copyright © Anthony Collins 2000

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