Istria

The line between white sky and white sea has faded

like the street signs of the old republic.  

The bay's glittering meniscus unfurls in the breeze,

dry as the brittle leaves in your blind aunt’s garden.

 

Bench tilted back to the sun-plastered wall

I listen, without following, to your conversation;

consonants echo in the stone house

like the juice of some dark, heavy fruit.

 

Along the beachfront, the drab bunting

of refugees' scarves flaps from the peeling

pastel facades of the last empire. 

A taxiboat zips and unzips the harbour.

 

Yesterday, on a bus journey to the south,

the driver and passengers stopped for a smoke, hunched

in their leather coats, while we wandered.

We found a winged lion, etched into

the crumbling keystones of a deserted village,

laying claim to its austere hinterland,

to the alleys you translate for me.  Days are more difficult:

 

each place and moment form the real fluency,

a different wine that slides differently around the tongue

received and lost as the line

between sky and sea – like that taxiboat

as it zips up the harbour.

Triage, September 2010