a midsummer night's fair gift of airglow
     fills the sky with the patience of pearls
            the world's a city full of straying streets
                  whispered the Omniscient Mussel    rocking
                      in a shallow phosphorescent pool
                         with a straw in a bottle of Tamarisk
                           I accept a salty   green-fringed mouthful
    then get back to my tale           not that it's news to the  O.M.  –
               so after 3 days throwing up in Siracusa  (water poisoning  –  Midsummer 1980)
                     I catch the night-train to Agrigento    [Dorian]
                          carrying less weight    &  with another page bleached clean in my head
                             I  arrive after the last bar has closed
                                 & wander southwards from the city
                                    until I find a broken orchard wall:
                                    & slept on Earth      too near a goat      & manger full of stars
        I awoke to the silhouette of a dog facing east            &  sitting next to my head
                stirring when I stirred                but with a dogged calm
                     we shared Parmesan rind   & stale soft crackers  in the dark
                         as another dog ghosted in under the trees    & then another
                           & we  set off to reach the temples by dawn with a pack of 20 happy hounds
                              (plus Shakespeare   fruit  &  Durrell   in the bin-bag from Messina)
              we arrived before first light     the Temple of Concord    or Demeter
                        [or whichever mother & daughter invented agriculture before that weeken]
                           temples remade by changing light in an air       which held wild thyme
                               in years of breeze from off the sea     I looked over my own shoulder
                                 & although my view was overseen            I saw enough
        to leave a sense of rising       small boats lifted on a long swell        forever in my head
                          & a piano beached  on the landing
                              what might our dying Norfolk neighbour want before the end?
                                     we swallow a few more bitter drops
                                        which drop into the deep dark river
                                            that carries us away –

                reassurance that the photograph is still under his pillow
                          his old oar still planted in the vegetable patch
                                 a fork just smeared with red mullet stew
                                    a tea-spoon dipped in retsina
                                          help to reach the bedroom window
                                             so he can look down into the garden
                               where his old dog sits looking the other way

Norfolk         June 2007