polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar
Through its many cracks the evening sky,
a smudged grey mirror without horizon,
empties its reflection into the sea, mingling with
the blood of the dying sun, staining the water
on which float or sink the tide of little boats,
their foreign eyes fixed on the ghost of land.
Up in the old town of small blue houses,
where cats and dogs fight their owners for a crust,
people drift out of Vespers in unmended shoes,
their souls patched one more time, hoping it will last another day.
The ageing priest stares after them, a trickle of ragged shapes
running down to the shore
where crimson water laps the beach
on which children used to play.
They run across the wet and shining sand,
gazing out to sea,
wondering what the waves will cast off tonight,
how many boats will turn to driftwood
for the fire to keep them warm.
Fingers of foam, cold and searching, brush a tiny, sodden shape,
a question mark curled up at the water’s edge,
one arm stretched landwards, its bloodied fist clutching
the last few shreds of hope.
They turn the young boy over, close his lifeless eyes
as the Aegean whispers his name.
The Iron Gates are closing
all over Europe,
slammed shut against the Other,
faceless strangers fleeing homes bombed flat
by pounds and dollars.
While in the island to the north,
land of crumbling, pockmarked cliffs
and instinctively doffed caps,
they are rolling down the shutters of their shops,
counting the day’s takings,
balancing the books
Put the kettle on, be a dear.
Is there honey still for tea?
Christopher Moncrieff is a European poet who has also translated widely from French, German and Romanian literature (Pushkin Press, Alma Books, Alma Classics & Istros Books). After professional military service in Europe, the Near East and the USA during the Cold War he produced son et lumière-style shows in Germany, France and the USA before beginning to write full-time, and has also lived in Paris and Los Angeles. He read Theology at Oxford, and has qualifications in design and on the military staff. A frequent traveller in Central and Eastern Europe, he speaks a number of the languages of the region. He is an award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, in which capacity he was the Writing Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge, from October 2018-December 2019, has worked as a mentor for young adults on the autism spectrum, and campaigns for the acceptance of neuro- and gender diversity. His poetry has appeared in the Bucharest Literary Review, Luceafrul, and an illustrated collection, Tabac Blond, was published by Caparison Books in 2019. He is currently working on a new collection, as well as a cycle of prose-poem novellas written from a neurodivergent perspective. In 2020 he was the first Writer in Residence at the Institute of Science and Technology at the University of Vienna.
Personal website: www.christophermoncrieff.com