Petite Fleur

She asked me if I was happy.
I don’t know, I replied, are you?
She paused and thought for a while before saying,
I think there have been periods of happiness but on the whole, no not really.

We were sat on the terrace of a bistro we used to frequent.
How many years, I asked, thirty-four, thirty-five?
We tried to work it out and settled on thirty-four.
Half a lifetime, almost.

A seagull strolled along the iron balustrade,
stopped and squirted a stream of white crap over the side.
It landed with a slap on the black tidal mud below.
This unsociable act appeared to give the seagull great pleasure.

Tilting its head backwards it squawked at the sky as if to declare
‘this is my patch now’ before flying off and forgetting,
circling away towards the new white footbridge to alight and no doubt
eject its fishy crap once more like an incontinent vandal.

A breeze blew across the line of low tide water below the houseboats.
It caused little ripples to fan out in all directions
all of which were unsure which way to run.
I looked at the side of her face. Laughter and life outlined.

The bone structure was less defined now under her fifty year old flesh.
Like myself, I noted a few extra pounds here and there.
Beneath her skin a slight translucence glowed,
a bit like an underwater river. I found it strangely alluring

but it also made me feel like I was drowning. Lost at sea.
I crossed my legs and leant forward and she turned and smiled
as if having read my thoughts but more likely a nervous reaction
to the break in conversation.

Do you remember, up on the hills? she asked,
turning to look southwards. The biplane had circled overhead
whilst down below we had made love in the wheat field
surrounded by poppies. How could I forget.

I went to get more drinks and when I returned
she was standing by the iron balustrade,
her dark hair across her shoulders, her head turned away.
In contemplation of the ebbing tide, perhaps.

I fought the temptation to stand close behind her,
to feel her body close to mine, one last time.
When she turned, her face revealed the single line
that a teardrop makes as it trickles down a woman’s cheek.

Why did you come back? she said suddenly.
Her words hit me like a gust of wind through a propeller.
I looked away and up the river, steadying my thoughts.
I’m sorry, was all I could think of in reply. And I was.

You used to call me your Petite Fleur, she said.
I’d forgotten that. A bit embarrassing really.
I had been her first and she, mine.
I had plucked the petals from my little flower

one by one, until the call had come and I was gone.
I watched her fly away in her poppy print dress.
A flock of seagulls battled with a biplane high in the sky
and I knew then that this war was finally over.

 

 

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ice creams on the pier

in the distance
Beachy Head

we all wore sunglasses
– enjoyed the sea breeze

talked about
this and that and the other

and later – when the tide
had come in on our thoughts

we shed some tears –
the seagulls kept me awake

I lay there at 5 in the morning
imagining swallowing pills

one after another
until the bottle was empty

my face white as chalk
the tide now far from shore

and in the distance
Beachy Head

 

it’s all gone pete tong

I waited in that room for you to return
reading between the lines on your face
on the photos taken in a cramped booth
in the amusement arcade on the pier
burning black and white in my hands
just a couple of crumpled square inches
was all I had left and it didn’t feel right

oh well, there was still sand in my socks
and the stain of ketchup from the chips
on the t-shirt bought specially for the day
the taste of salt kept recurring on my lips
like waves crashing on the pebbled shore
as the sun set over the blurred horizon
and the gulls settled down for the night

 

ingrained

the park, the river, the beach
dried leaves from horse chestnuts
bottle tops in squelchy mud
the driftwood of weathered huts

I circle around those memories
like a seagull searching for grub
the trees, the bridges, the horizon
my friends in the cricket club

I’m off to hunt out stag beetles
or mice under corrugated sheets
my day spent in silent solitude
with the birds and bumble bees

the chalk, the grass, the blue skies
marking white arrows on gates
rolling down steep hillsides
watching red admirals contemplate

you can’t take the boy out of the man
the landscape from out of his eyes
it’s ingrained like rings of truth
every year that flies on by

 

Lover’s Key

Beyond the covered decking

Quartz white crystal sands

Sparkle in the Gulf sun –

A line of rainbow umbrellas

Shield the beach goers

With their wheeled cooler boxes –

Stand up paddle boarders

And selfie stick young women

Lounge in the shallows –

Cloud builds from the south

Mid 90’s heat dips to bearable

Miniscule flies bite my ankles –

Along the shore Bonita Springs

And in the distance Naples rises

Like a mini Manhattan on the sea –

A cooling breeze blows through

Tourists disgorge from the free bus

A family prepares to leave –

I don’t have to do anything

Maybe read or write or draw

Clean air filters my thoughts –

The seagulls make the most noise

Circling and squawking their calls

Ever watchful for opportunities –

 

Beyond all of this the pelicans dive

They fill their shopping bag bills

With lunch from the fresh fish counter.

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