First Wave of Holiday Poems

Manifesto for the First Day of British Summer Time
by Anna Kisby

Open up like a nest-bird for cherry ice-cream. Wear a pink moustache. Make love to an ant. Dismay at the smudge it becomes. Remember the tree-house. Sweep it of muck. Arrange leaves in size order; weight each one with a squirrel dropping. This is your life – concentrate. Startle at a mower. Ride a bike into tight corners, forget to duck. Blacken the soles of your clean white socks. Find your own face in the bird-bath. Watch how it wavers. Be a tree; gob sap. Jump. Jump. Slip the garden latch.

Anna Kisby‘s poems have been placed in competitions and published in various magazines, most recently Magma.


by E.E. Nobbs

The blue jay dropped her quill
and let it lie
the leaf-filled maple tree –

I thought of Chicken Licken’s terror
so stuck it
on my
cabin wall – this tiny piece


E.E. Nobbs is a poet from Prince Edward Island, Canada.


by Colin Dardis

If a change is truly
as good as a rest
then I will holiday
amongst my rearranged room,
approach furniture at new angles
and stare at slightly different
shadows on the walls.

I’ll stay on this retreat for so long
that they will be no need to take snaps:
just let the perpendiculars
and the parallels
ingrain into my view.

There’s no post office on this island
so excuse the lack of postcards,
while all the phone lines wilted
in a recent storm.

Some days, I venture out
on a little boat
made of linen and springs,
and manage to pull the night with me
in the undertow,
the captain of my ship,
the manager of this hotel,
the only guest this season.

Colin Dardis is a poet from Northern Ireland, and editor of FourXFour Poetry Journal.


The Devil Will Find Work for Idle Minds
by Kathryn Maris

On the beach, every blonde is the girl
he’ll leave me for.

The weather is fine;
happy families bob in the waves;
but everywhere is the pretty one, too.

A man shouts ‘Melons and coconuts!’

I’m sure I see her on a towel,
pregnant with his child.

But she might be over there – ankle deep
in the sea with their twins,
smiling at the man who was mine.

The beach is a terrible place.

I can hear the fish say carpe diem,
the motto of the disloyal.

I have begun to pity the fashion models
of my generation
as the country celebrates their decline.

A second vendor sings ‘Peaches!’

The sun projects itself on the world
and my husband adjusts the umbrella.

I wonder if I’ll move to a Zen Buddhist abbey
to gain perspective after I’m left
for a sea-girl he can’t fully possess.

(first published in Poetry London, 2010 and God Loves You, Seren 2013)

Kathryn Maris, a poet from New York City who now lives in London, is the author of two poetry collections, most recently God Loves You, Seren 2013.


Flat lands
by Meg Cox

We didn’t intend to visit Agues Mortes
on our drift round the south of France,
swimming in the Med, visiting museums.
We were camping with all we needed
in the back of an open Golf GTI,
moving on every day. September,
almost the vendange. Moules. Ripe fruit.
Garlic and tomatoes fried over the Gaz
with oil and french bread. Sex.
Agues Mortes spoilt it. stopped us.
What was it? The name, the flat lands?
It was a hard place, old and dangerous
it seemed to us. We weren’t welcomed.
I wanted to see the horses of the Carmague
but it was closed. Coarse windswept grass.
Salt dead water, not the warm Mediterranean
but a grey stone and invaded edge land,
I remember mostly the wild horses
we didn’t see, tossing their manes.

Meg Cox is a late flowering poet.


by EM Reapy
for Camilo, Sebastian, Roman y Abel

They usher me to the deck chair
on our rooftop terrace in Palermo*
Form a midnight circle on the ground –
Skyscrapers glare
Buenos Aires hisses
down in the shadows
But we’re in the lunar glow
drinking iced Fernet Branca and cola
Chilean pisco
Poured from a silver flask
into chipped cups
Sipped then passed around
The men topless
brown skin
brown eyes
black beards
gold chains resting on their chests
sweet traces of dried sweat
in the air with the onions, the beef
bouquets from the neighbour’s assado
Guitar strings are charmed
Thumbs and palms stroke the tambora
They sing in broken English,
Whistle, hum, click fingers, tap feet,
Nocturnal city birds cheer as they fly by
Fortunate as me
To hear
Be here

Argentine moon swells

*Palermo is a neighbourhood or barrio of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires

EM Reapy (29) is an Irish writer, editor, tutor and festival coordinator.


Roman Holiday
(used to be a euphemism for a military excursion)
by Jennie Osborne

Defeated by Coliseum queues
we found our own monuments,
unsung fountains in quiet squares,
cats lying in ambush like conspirators
on the spot where Caesar met his death,
a church for Copts, no gilding
but a presence of prayer.

We dodged umbrella peddlers in the rain,
shawl pushers in the sun,
picked bitter olives outside
one more basilica.

We watched the army ‘coptering in,
pitching tents on the Campo Maximo,
noted the build-up of carabinieri
Cafe TVs showed us an uprising of flood water,
Friday’s streets a surge of blue-scarved protestors.

Layers of brick, stone, marble,
cannibalised, infilled, used as foundation,
a mish-mash of centuries,
Christians dragged to the Coliseum,
Jews to death camps,
nine hundred years of killing in between
as church and state tighten or loosen their grip.

Down a side street, a young man
oiled his rifle on the pavement
in the shadow of Victor Emmanuel’s dome.
History prepared for another lurch.
We sat watching the cats,
picked up luggage, prepared
to go home.

Jennie Osborne lives near Dartmoor, her collection How to be Naked is published by Oversteps Books.


No sense of direction
by Colin Will

Lacking a landmark
I fall back on hunch. I guess
I’m walking somewhere parallel
to the road I should be on,
the one known route
to our pick-up point.

I pass sights I’d enjoy
if panic wasn’t starting:
horse-harnessed fountains,
deities in white marble,
ancient crumbled walls, half arches
whose building tiles are terra rossa,
little squares, shaded classical villas,
peeling stucco, sgraffiti
where the word came from.

I should know where I am, but
the sun’s too high, I can’t see
the Tiber bridges, I’m troubled
by an unfamiliar map
where up isn’t north,
and street names change
at every intersection.

Scared now, and losing time,
I stop a taxi. Copping out,
I pay the driver to navigate Rome’s maze.

Colin Will is a Dunbar-based poet and publisher who loves to travel.


Labor Day, Long Island
by Rebecca Goss

My girlfriend was sipping his pink lemonade,
laughing as if she really didn’t know
he wanted to touch her.

His repeated invitation
to “cocktails on the yacht”
were words that gently tugged
at my girlfriend’s common sense.

She leaned to bite my shoulder,
whispered “Why not?”
I stared at the rings on his toes. Glistening
blue and silver, on fat golden stubs.

(from The Anatomy of Structures, Rebecca Goss, Flambard Press, 2010)

Her Birth, Rebecca Goss, Carcanet/Northern House, due August 2013.


Half the Story
by Ian Duhig

Franz Kafka, the story goes, encountered a little girl in the park where he walked every day. She was crying. She’d lost her doll. Franz helped the girl search for the doll, but they couldn’t find it. They arranged to meet there next day to look again for her doll, but still they could not find it. When they met the following day, Kafka gave her a tiny letter that he told her he’d found nearby. She read “Don’t be sad: I’m only travelling. I’ll write every day!” And every day that summer, when Kafka and the little girl met, he’d read a new letter to her describing places the doll visited, what it did there and who it met. The little girl was comforted. When the holiday was over and she had to go back to school, he gave her a doll that he said was the lost prodigal returned, and, if it seemed a little different from the doll of her memory, a note pinned to its scarf explained: “My travels changed me.”

Or so ends this version of the story, popular with therapists, but in Dora Diament’s own
account, our one first-hand source, there was no new doll, nor a message of change and growth; instead, Dora had described a final letter sent to the little girl detailing how the doll met its soul mate and had married him; how it would be too busy with its new family to write again, enjoining the little girl to seek similar fulfilment in her own life. Dora also noted how this affair had driven Kafka to distraction, who’d endured white nights, tortured by his own compassion, feverishly thinking up new adventures for his changeling doll, a golem doppelgänger made out of letters and lies and love, this correspondence of doll, girl and Kafka lasting three weeks the same time as that holiday when Dora had first met Kafka, a place whose name I only half-recall at best, Graal-something.

(first published in Poetry London)

Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, most recently Pandorama, Picador 2010