To Write a Poem

Sitting uninspired in a bland, white University room, walls scarred by a thousand chair backs

My concentration wanders to the window and the murky cloud that marks the turn of the summer,

And to the sound of children playing, laughing, shrieking, their lives not yet fixed in stone.

As the cloud wafts slowly by, grey merging with white, becoming blue

My poetic soul drifts along with it, and the sky becomes the sea


And the laughter of children becomes the tinkling of small copper bells

Suspended amongst the polished green leaves of a coconut palm

Twisted with time, leaning forward across the sand

To listen to the whisper of the sea in this Balinese Shangri La.

Beneath my feet, warm paper white sand collapses with each step,

Its grains so minuscule they cling to my skin like metal filings on a magnet,

And at the edge of the sand the sea begins, crystal, becoming aqua marine,

Becoming French navy as it deepens and swells above its precious coral reef,

Casting glimmers of colour, a spectrum of broken bubbles.

On wooden platforms elevated out above the sea, I see small flimsy wooden huts,

The only shelter available. The only shelter needed.

Outside one hut sits a man on a small wooden box, his hair and beard

White as the sand against his wood brown skin.

He is long limbed, and slight of build and he wears worn cream trousers,

No shirt, no shoes. His body has seen many years, and his skin is loose

Drawn down by age and gravity.

On his nose he wears yellow rimmed spectacles, and he is bent over,

Weaving something with dried palm leaves in shades of green and gold

With his long weathered fingers. Periodically he stops to push

His spectacles back up his long narrow nose and stretch his back, sore from stooping.

Presently his wife emerges from the hut with a basket of fruit,

Mangoes, bananas, coconuts, freshly picked by careful hands.

It is clearly his wife from the way she takes her seat, dutifully beside him

And from the silent look of love and a mutual respect and tolerance they share.

She wears a simple dress, buttoned to her neck, and the colour of custard-apple,

And around her throat she wears a single string of off white pearls, fresh from the sea,

And her hair is bound in a simple cloth the delicate pink of guava flesh.

Her face bears the lines of children and life and it falls into a natural frown

Although nothing about her feels stern or unapproachable,

And her eyes twinkle with a mischief long ago buried.

The man has finished weaving and hands his craft work to his wife,

It is a fan, made with love, to capture the essence of the sea breeze,

And her face erupts with smiles, and I catch a glimpse of the girl she once was.

They stand together, in time, as if to dance, and begin their walk without touching,

Towards the mainland, he carrying the fruits, she carrying the fan.

I follow them, some distance behind, not wishing to break their unity, their natural closeness.

Passing through a fringe of palm trees they follow an ivory pebble path

Towards a group of solid, whitewashed buildings in the centre of which

Is a domed roof of brilliant gold.

Around us people are gathering, women dressed in their finest clothes of

Saffron and chilli pepper, tamarind and lime, men in cream trousers and open neck shirts

Smoking and gesticulating and living, a huge balti pot of chattering people sharing

Words I don’t understand, swapping tales and good wishes with

Clattering syllables and flying hands, and I loose sight of

The old couple and their fruit and their fan.

Then I see the bride in a shimmer of golden twinkles and tikka red

And a peach hibiscus flower in her inky hair, her young face shining with pleasure

And her kohl black eyes sparkling, deep as the sea, as she joins hands with her new husband.

And the crowd of people begin to cheer and dance and sing

Twisting and and laughing and darting, their colours flashing like shoals in the coral,

And gifts of fruit are passed around, and the smell of spice and sweetness is in the air

And I see the old couple now and relive their long ago wedding day with them

In their fond smiles and knowing crinkled eyes.

The sun is beginning to set now, its pink light oozing through the palm trees like ripe mangoes,

Dripping its golden red sticky warmth on the crowd of people

Who are beginning to fade and smudge now, becoming henna merging with smoke,

Becoming grey, and the cloud outside the University window continues to waft slowly by me,

Taking with it my afternoon of paradise and colour borrowed from the eyes of others

And I return to the blank piece of paper and my desire to be creative.


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