by Ion Corcos
We stopped at Tankerton on the way,
opposite the Grand Pavilion.
Copperas was once mined here, iron sulphate,
for the dye in wool or cloth,
the base for ink,
as a dressing for scabs on sheep.
Now the sea is used for wind.
We drive to Whitstable,
park in a residential street,
walk the narrow path along the shops.
We browse in Boots for antihistamine,
check Iceland for tennis balls,
but it is not until Whitstable Castle
that we feel ourselves again.
We eat chocolate muffins,
watch two bees in purple flowers,
and drink coffee from white cups.
It is hot in the Castle gardens.
You can’t decide
if you should keep your old red boots,
You ask me about Greece.
They settled on ‘Northern Macedonia,’ I say.
As we drive home, we look out to sea,
past green lawn, hog’s fennel,
the shingle beach.
As an Old Man in Sorrow
The marsh reeds have turned brown,
and the sky is full of gulls,
white like stars. You walk the promenade,
watch fishermen set up for the night.
Jackdaws gather on bare trees.
You stand in front of a hotel;
the air is icy. You look to the sky,
notice some stars more than others.
You still have little money.
It is different here in the mountains.
The food is cheap, and after a long walk
to town, you go to a restaurant,
order a glass of house wine,
and soup with bread.
You can’t speak the language,
but they speak English in Ohrid;
you even hear a song,
and the words sound familiar.
You are on your own, like snow
on the mountain peaks.
You will not go back to hospital,
and you will not talk about what really happened
the day you died.
You hear a familiar name, Vincent,
and feel an urge to paint, but do not know how.
You take your jacket off a stand,
note a man in blue
leaning forward in his chair, hunched.
You understand what he has lost;
you have seen that in yourself.
In the morning, you will go out,
buy canvas, paints.
About the photographer: Clive Collins is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. Clive is author of Carried Away and Other Stories (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018), and is the poetry editor at The Sunlight Press.