I apologise for the re-blog, but dVerse wants travel poetry, and I think this is probably the best of my memoir poems. Also, I have many new followers who won’t have seen it.
Travel in small doses (as on holiday) doesn’t really allow you to dive into place and culture. We lived and worked in Seychelles for two years, a life-changing experience.
The odour repels, yet draws me in
through the grandiose gateway arch in memory
of some bigwig; grubby egrets perched above,
necks drawn in, waiting patiently
to pounce on scraps of meat and fish.
A seethe of screeching, bustling, busty women
armed with huge plaited palm-leaf bags
jostle me in friendly fashion.
I can’t buy food here … ? can I?
An explosion of colour grabs the eye,
such fruit I’ve never seen.
‘Go on, taste it Madame.’
I do, gagging at the reek of whole jack-fruit,
drooling at the divine taste of its inner flesh.
Give the stinking, unsavoury butcher’s row
a very wide berth. Ditto the fish stalls -
those fish must have been caught
as long ago as yesterday. Look, their eyes
II Figures in the Market
Like Piccadilly Circus, stand there long enough
and you’ll meet everyone you know.
Anne of the long black rippled hair and gentle nature
voice like a screech owl. We chat about choir,
the problems we have
with intonation and finding the note,
the disaster dynamics -
all they know is fortissimo.
Margaret, big and bouncy,
very Grand Blanc, rather posh,
booms on about plantation days
and when can you come for bridge?
Tiny sparrow, sari-wrapped Susan.
Surprised, I am, to see her
in the middle of the morning, away
from her windowless sweat-shop kitchen,
preparing the twenty or so pungent dishes
on a roaring primus, to feed Dev,
aged mother-in-law, sons,
and hangers-on, but not herself.
Scavenging dogs in packs
weave through the rickets-bowed legs
of idle gossiping men, crashing dominos
onto a stone slab table.
In a land of abundant fruit and fish
why would they bother with jobs?
Driving home, loaded with exotica -
fruit and veg, herbs and spices,
fresh as all get out, I pass a beach.
A pirogue just landed, fresh
fish spread on the sand.
The babble of bargaining draws me in,
A huge bourgeois for five rupees,
about fifty p in real money, a feast for ten.
Notes: Victoria – capital of Seychelles
Bourgeois – local name for a red snapper
Pirogue – small slim boat with turned up ends, poled or paddled.