The remembering cliffs

          The cliffs are full of faces, great granite heads
          Petrified just as they lifted from sleep.
          Stone heads of Martello towers, blank looks
          From the concrete helmets of German gun emplacements
          Now so assimilated with the granite and the gorse
          That they have lost their particular history.

          These cliffs are full of faces, a cliffpath walk
          Inevitably winds back into past summers
          Bringing to mind voices in the wind, my family
          Talking as they walked the remembering cliffs.
          It is a haunted coastline and every time a corner's turned
          I meet my recollection of those who walked here.

          I meet myself as a child who thought God had been born
          Floating face down in these waters
          His face big as a cliff's face, His body a small island.
          It was an untaught myth; my secret belief
          And life must have teemed about Him like the wrasse
          And the gulls and the mackerel crowding close to these cliffs.

          The cliffs are full of faces that stare out to find Him
          And I stare too -- through the slits and cracks
          Of my fortified disbelief, of my adulthood,
          Into his comforting presence -- into the sea.
          Now the sea seems part of a once swollen certainty
          That has yearly drawn away like a lowering tide.

Postcard from Ithaca

          The leather-faced waiter was once a sailor.
          I ask him for one last ouzo and fanta
          And in the bay's sleepy wasp-plagued taverna
          I awkwardly toast your memory
          In this roosting place of homesick dreams.

          While the waiter serves a pizza to a German
          I'm thinking of my next destination, not this
          Hot and resonant Ionian harbour
          Berthing that bulbous Cephalonian boat
          Its bridge lambent with a crude Poseidon,

          But rather somewhere that is beyond Ithaca;                    
          A new island perhaps, a rumour in the sea            
          That makes everything ominous, so even
          This warm morning's ricochet of flying fish
          Seemed a symbol of the spirit taking wing. 
          We reckoned ourselves to be Ithacans once
          But every journey lasts longer than a lifetime.
          Today I'll choke up this brine, gulp air again,
          Because now there are no deadly opponents
          And no-one's calling for clever disguises.
          I wish we'd known that once you' reached Ithaca
          You can only move on, like the boat's bored crew 
          Who count aboard the straggling English tourists.                                   
          From the bow I watch the waiter's back bent low
          In the slow repetitions of his evening.

I am leaving for another country       

          I require a plane, as it is far from here.
          One which will skim so low that I recognise
          Individuals I've known through its windows.
          And as I circle the smokeless chimney pots
          I'll peer into homes that gave me no welcome
          Overshadowing them with my perfect wings.

          I will stride to the cockpit to take control  
          For, as predicted, there will be no pilot
          And there shall be no-one to guide my landing.
          Momentarily, I imagine soaring
          Forever, never touching down; a Captain
          Of a fragile vessel of wing and prayer.

          Even the autopilot has gone off-line
          There is nobody near but weird creatures
          Not birds, but flying squirrels, airborne spiders,
          Nimbi full of sucked up frogs and fishes 
          Pterodactyls and forgotten animals
          Who have learned to spring vehemently upwards.

          The sun does not set over the wrinkled sea
          I'm racing the sun to another country
          Where people amass, awaiting my landfall.
          And the astrologers fully expect me
          So I sport a full beard for the occasion
          As aspects of my deportment were foretold. 

          Full of hope, I imagine you will be there. 
          Perhaps you carry a sign, or bear a garland
          Of blooms from the surface of a black river.
          Or you'll hurry me into a black taxi
          To protect me from gathered paparazzi
          And astonish me with your dazzling circle.

          Will you be there? Or will you be with others?
          Or will you hang back, ranked perhaps
          By your age, or the love you spilled for me?
          If only I was sure you would be there, that
          You were awake, waiting among the sleepers
          In the tired midnight lobby of the airport.

          (c) Peter Kenny 2001

Peter Kenny

The Remembering Cliffs is about returning to Guernsey, where I spent lots of my childhood (see pic above). The second is about Ithaca, the Greek island and home of Homer's hero Odysseus, who spent years trying to return after fighting in the Trojan war -- it's also about my pal Tim Gallagher.

The last one is a dream.