Victoria Market

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.

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.
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14 Responses to Victoria Market

  1. The market are great, try to find one wherever I go. Glad you got through the tasting. A very clear description of all your experiences. Writing off the cuff-seems to be working for you quite well!


  2. What an experience you have recalled for us here. Sigh. Lovely memories, Viv. I have been but an armchair traveler this lifetime. So much to see out there!


  3. claudia says:

    you lived in Seychelles for two years? how awesome is that – i can imagine that it was a life-changing time – love me some fresh fish and exotic fruits – and living so close to the beach – ah – sounds divine…


  4. MarinaSofia says:

    You are right: you merely think you see a place when you are passing through, but you really *see* it when you live there. You convey all the smells, sounds, sights (and the local characters) beautifully – makes me want to go there…


  5. margaret says:

    The food, the people – a wonderful glimpse into daily life that is so far away from me… thank you.


  6. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Thanks for the poetic flashback, delicious, sensual, exotic, with the imagining of jack fruit in a car trunk, rife with details; love all of them, but the ride back & beach encounter stands out for me.


  7. Sumana Roy says:

    we live in a place where jack fruits are plenty…many can’t stand the smell…but it’s really delicious when eaten with puffed rice, mango juice and milk together…love the detailed & vivid scene…


  8. Gabriella says:

    I was told that jack fruit is forbidden aboard a plane, you probably understand why more than I do. I always find markets a delight, the more different from ours the better.


  9. What an experience, somehow the food market is a place I always try to visit as soon as possible, even a supermarket tell me more about a country than any guidebooks… I would love to browse a food market than the one you describe.


  10. Mary says:

    You have really given us a vivid picture, including the sites and smells, of the Victoria Market, Viv. I have never tasted jack fruit. I’d be a bit afraid of packs of scavenging dogs.


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