Victoria Market

I’m going off prompt for a while, as there is so much poetry from the week’s workshop, waiting to be worked up.  Here’s what I wrote in response to a two-part exercise yesterday. We started off by reading some sensory poems from various
sources, and were then set to freewriting a list of places/events, remembered by scent or sound etc.  These were examined round the table, and then we were asked to write a “landscape” poem about one of them.  So the first part of this poem emerged, and was read and critiqued.  Then, we were asked to place figures into that landscape.  A lightbulb moment for me, and I was off, scribbling like a mad thing, memories whooshing in from all sides!  With only the most cursory of tweaking while typing the result into my laptop, here is the raw material for a memoir poem, opening up huge possibilities for mining my Seychelles memories.  I need to find pictures to accompany this, but no time – too much to do, for a change!


Victoria Market

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
are cloudy.

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, 
arranged daughters-in-law,
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?

III Aftermath

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.



All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
This entry was posted in life writing, Poems, Seychelles. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Victoria Market

  1. Viv, so glad you stopped by my blog today! I love the poem– still very much like the Victoria market I saw last summer.


  2. TheMsLvh says:

    Absolutly amazing Viv. The choice of your words painted an incredible picture. WOW! I loved the market, and the two women. Great poem!


  3. Ella says:

    What a sensory overload, so much electricity in your words. The current of seeing the fragments of all! I loved it~ Visual a feast, a poetic buffet~


  4. Mary Kling says:

    Hi Viv, it seems other people commented much earlier on these poems; but I saw them today at Poets United. I love reading the sights, sounds, smells of the market. I feel I was right there with you. Beautifully done.


  5. thingy says:

    I agree, no pictures needed. This was food for the eyes and soul. Gorgeous write!


  6. Kim Nelson says:

    Vivienne, You took me on a vicarious vacation and I loved it. The sights, smells, people we met were all so clear and familiar. Thank you.


  7. This lush and lovely piece had us standing alongside you on the other side of the world! A real treat for the senses…:)


  8. This brought back memories of Hong Kong. In the 60’s my ship put into port there. I took my own walking tour of Hong Kong and ended up in a street of fresh food vendors (a misnomer). The smell has never escaped me to this day. It is amazing that where ever one goes in the world there can always found a street, a market, that arouses the sense of smell forever. I am there now. Thanks for the description. This shopping trip was an education.


  9. Viv, an absolutely divine walk through the scene with your words. The descriptions are scrumptious.



  10. margo roby says:

    You’re not off topic, Viv. Your out there is from your memory, still observational. What a rich resource! I love the egrets; We see them everywhere in the south [and Indonesia when we lived there] and they fascinate me



  11. 1sojournal says:

    Love it Viv, and like everyone has already said, you allowed us to be there with you. Rich and inviting, sensory fantastic.



  12. Deliciously splendid… you have me craving jackfruit now. 🙂 I like the animal-human parallels that move in and out of a very sumptuous narrative; it must’ve been quite an experience to live through, thank you for painting it and showing it to us.


  13. brenda w says:

    Viv, This is gorgeous. How blessed you are to be in workshop! The prompt and results are absolutely fantastic. I love the grubby egrets and scavenging dogs…details like this bring your reader into the place with you. Excellent construction here. This poem demands to be read again. It is one of my favorites of yours….so far. 🙂


  14. Irene says:

    Rich with detail and a very engaging narrative!


  15. nan says:

    Wonderfully written. I stopped and re-read and enjoyed “grubby egrets” and agree with Tilly Bud that it sets the tone for the marketplace – and gets into the mind of the narrator – right at the start. Then I started seeing things through her eyes – contrasts of reactions from repulse at smells to delight at colors and all the potential!


  16. wayne says:

    well done a gain Viv….thanks


  17. Linda Jacobs says:

    You bring the scene to life! Love the sari-wrapped Susan as a sparrow. I can see this as a series.


  18. You have turned a significant corner, Viv. This looks like a new landscape and you walked us through it..


  19. thehutts says:

    The choir memories made me laugh – thinking of the Doris Robinson Primary School Christmas Performance last winter. Like Grandmother, like grandson – Fraser was upset by his fellow singers not doing as instructed by their teacher.


  20. Mike Patrick says:

    Viv, this is the best poem I’ve ever seen you write. My jaw dropped in awe. If this is what workshops produce, I need some. The most exqusite discriptive passages I’ve ever seen allowed me to walk with you, see what you saw, and smell what you smelled. I don’t know how old these memories are, but they are as fresh as today. Truly amazing.


  21. earlybird says:

    Sorry! but rubbish! you don’t need ‘pictures’ – please no physical pictures! The pictures your words have made in my head are superb; bright, clear, colourful, exotic, bursting with sound and life. A static photo might destroy them. I’ve been there with you now. Very special.


    • vivinfrance says:

      Ooh! That twanged your strings! All right, I won’t. But one of the most interesting discussions this week concerned mixed media memoirs, with prose, poetry, photos and paintings all intermingled (not just a few photo pages in the middle of a rambling prose auto-biog) We all were very excited about this and plans were hatched to take the idea further.


  22. Susannah says:

    What a feast of words and images. I really enjoyed reading these Viv. 🙂


  23. Tilly Bud says:

    A feast of images and memories, Viv! I love the ‘grubby egrets’: sets the tone for the rest. Wonderful.


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