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
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.