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AT THE SKIN RESORT

No Text AT THE SKIN RESORT

This collection contains poems written during the 1990's. They are located in Eastern Europe for the most part and respond to the realities that emerged after the revolutions of 1989 to 1991.















The critics said:

"It contains some of the best poems I have read for some time ... He is the local resident who has the requisite knowledge but, more importantly, has retained the awareness of the satisfying strangeness not just of this place but of all the world." Hugh McPherson in Poetry Review

"the poems in At the Skin Resort finally triumph not by unveiling the past but by holding themselves up as figments of power and beauty." David Roderick in Verse

"These poems , as poetry has so often been intended in times of conflict and rebuilding, are testament to the lives the compassionately uncover." Andy Brown in Stand

GHOST ORCHID

We found it at the edge of a patch of grass
Exactly where light left off and shade began
Just beneath a beech so old it was grotesque.

As the bark had stretched so had letters carved there stretched.
A name or initials of true love could have been
In Roman script or Cyrillic or Glagolitic.

Neither was the plant a pretty thing, but ragged
Like a candle someone with a knife had practised on
Making curlicues along its length. I stooped.

Each larger petal, each spur was pointing upwards.
Upwards! I checked. Nothing else could look so waxen.
Afterwards you said "It was waiting just for us."

There was no sound except our breath and a cuckoo call
Like a child blowing into a long-necked bottle.


THE FIRST FREE ELECTIONS

The soldiers sitting in their summer kit smell like hay.
A student with a birthmark on her throat like a tiny rose,
Who?s yet to pass even one exam, sips red wine and Pepsi
As she serves behind the bar where there's a video machine
And election posters - The Party for Drinking Beer,
The Party for Erotic Education - each gained less than one per cent.
A lovely waitress slovens between tables with a rancid cloth,
Black hot pants and a see-through blouse with green polka dots, no bra.
"A reason to return," you say.
What are we doing here?

Once upon a time there was a girl who was afraid
Of mice and frogs; tall, small-breasted whose walk wouldn?t rustle grass.
I said you ought to be a model with a walk like that,
But you took my straw hat from my head and put it on your own
All the while smiling that it was not your way,
That your good friends, the nuns, so recently proscribed, had said
It was better not to, that kissing any sort of frog
In any sort of way would be disastrous for your health.
Princes would not be your fate, you said.
What are we doing here?

"We've got freedom now," you say. "Perhaps I have to try
Even bad things at least once." Nothing and no-one in this place looks free
As girls take soldiers by the hand and lead them through a door
Opening on to stairs. The student?s turned the video on
And strange acts, not quite disgusting, take place between half-pretty girls
And sullen men to a mournful theme of Eric Satie's.
"Will you pay for a room?" you ask. I'm tempted to reply
That this is not my way. But I'm enchanted.
"Of course," I croak, "Of course. Of course," not
What are we doing here?

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SLOVAK GRASSHOPPER

Lime-yellow belly pulsing
like the throat of a bird
each jumping leg an oak splinter
front limbs with hooks to cling
to a stalk of grass even in a gale
each mandible a green bud
feelers two to three inches long
green scimitar for tail
with two spurs either side
black eyes like drops of easing oil
in a head which must have prompted
the Slovak phrase meadow horse
and the language also has
a much better word for insect: hmyz.

I've caught it with a plastic tumbler.
Perhaps it will even start to sing
And I can show it to my daughter
Who herself is singing in the next room
Along with a lyric on the radio
Said to be of extremist Irish passion.
Politics or history she doesn't know,
She simply loves the sound and rhythm
The slippery slope we all started on.
So I decline to lecture or explain.
I listen to her voice's ebb and flow
And I let the silent insect go.

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