Yvonne Romano

Looking
(a re-cycled word poem)

looking’s a way of breathing in the present
a moment when  earth’s long voyage is almost done

forgetting, recording, the eyes dig and burrow
keyholes through bones to the statue’s stone heart

my eyes are soft arms holding you in their lap
around you and your world they whisper their language

looking takes a new way of seeing the invisible
I look . . . and my eyes touch the echoes sometimes

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Yvonne Romano

Then and now

heady syringas        a garden in spring
a rhythmic mantra that the train wheels sing
amo amas amat        as in a trance
they kissed entwined under a rising moon
she day-dreamed of sheiks on the way to school
romance   true love   exotic lands    monsoons
meanwhile        decapitated by the train
a headless chicken does its manic dance

now her journey’s more confined.     from the train
she still climbs slopes, flies kites, surfs turquoise waves;
sees a lone arum bloom in winter shade;
picks everlastings; hears a scops owl call;
memories flash by –  ecstasy    and pain
still life framed in the windows of a train.

Yvonne Romano

fallen

a ramadan moon in an indigo sky
dusk shrouds the land in tones of grey
trembling I stand near the cliff’s edge
I can’t bear to look down I must try

I fix my gaze across the blurred bay
hairy millipede feet crawl my spine
fists clenched I shuffle along the thin ledge
eyes shut knees rigid mouth dry

oh just jump over no turn back and go
irresistible magnets tug at the core
gravity pulling one way feet rooted in awe
as in the past I can’t now cross this line -.

– rung by rung we’re rock climbing again
halfway up like lot’s wife I looked back and clung
to the rough concrete blocks weeping I hung
in my bubble of terror and shame

the scorn in your eyes seared through me
your mocking laughter echoing
those jeering words of ridicule and blame
diminishing me in my pain –

I’m back in that moment my gut laced with lead
I hover in dread as my head starts to ache
in slow motion my body is tumbling free –
falling down a bottomless ravine

I torpedo and sink in an icy black lake
my mind’s crystal bright I must survive
head up I kick, staying afloat in the night
I grab and hold onto a log floating by

but my raft’s gaining speed in the fast-moving stream
we hurtle along sounds of rapids nearby
another dive into the void no oh no
I let go strike out and swim across the flow

this has to be the way to go . . .

Yvonne Romano

A Dream

A copy of my glossy coffee table book depicting the people and places I’ve visited together with the irresistible dishes I’ve collected lies open on the counter in Kalk Bay Books.  It’s the official  launch and throngs of chatty women, husbands in tow, mill around. My right hand aches from signing, and I pause to drink some iced water.

“Just look at those red peppers!”
“I’ve always wanted to go to Naples – Italian men are so romantic!”
“How much does the book cost? What?  It must have something at that price”
“It does. . . I used to go to his classes at the Villa years ago and am still trotting out the recipes. Just look at  those peppers. . . you can almost smell them roasting!”

I look up at the woman first in line .
“Do you remember me?” she asks.
“Of course!” I lie.  Good to see you again!  What name would you like me to put?”
“I thought you remembered me!”
”I do, but it could be a gift for someone else”.
“No ways, I’ve waited long enough for this.”
She smiles at me and my mind zigzags.  Her face is vaguely familiar but I cannot recall her name. I stall for time.
“What recipe do you use most?” I ask.
“The chicken dish with orzo noodles is our family favorite, but I think the marinated peppers are divine!”

I dab my forehead and loosen my tie.  Suddenly it’s uncomfortably warm and an acrid smell burns my nostrils.  My pen refuses to move.  Swirls of smoke blur the faces in front of me.  I jump up pushing my way through the crowd and stumble into the nearest doorway.  I freeze and stagger back with burning eyes as flames billow from the gas hob and turn the last of my peppers to charcoal.

Winnie Thomson

I was looking for a poem, when an envelope came to me …

Looking for a poem, groping in doubt, tentatively and without awareness,
Like a hook- tantalizing the mind-
This mind of mine grabs a word, a sentence.

The pen writes laments, songs of praise, and
As the tune bends and insinuates itself,
The poet sees little things, makes the connections without fear.

She connects, she creates the links and sees the poem on the page.

Ferry to Mykonos – Yvonne Romano

She felt bogged down; stuck in a boringly predictably rut. It was time for a change – cut loose, set sail and head for the islands! Having taken the decision, she filled a small green canvas back-pack with the barest of essentials and boarded the crowded Metro to Pireaus.

Once in the ferry basin, she scanned the tatty handwritten timetable posted outside the port captain’s office. With two thirds of the day gone, the options were whittled down to a choice between Iraklion, Mykonos and Santorini. The first, Crete’s main port, would entail a wait of six hours and the departure for Santorini would mean hanging about for nearly four. So she hurried to the jetty where the Aegean Princess was berthing, its heavy steel ramp thundering down onto the worn concrete wharf. Thick ropes, flung down from first deck, were caught by swarthy dock hands and coiled around two sturdy bollards.

A seething mass of travellers, baggage and vehicles filled the quayside where officious port police were shouting, gesticulating and blowing shrill whistles in their sweaty efforts to marshall these frenetic groups into some semblance of order. A horde of over-eager passengers, like participants at the start of a marathon, were bulging outwards from the exit to get ashore. Pantechnicons, buses, cars and motorbikes were all revving loudly as they queued on the jetty to embark. Short-tempered drivers, voicing their frustration, added to the cacophony, while the smell of petrol and diesel fumes, accentuated by the late afternoon heat, was unbearable.

She was being jostled by a rowdy throng of colourfully clad holiday makers. Laughing and chattering in many languages, they strained against wooden barriers waiting for the signal to go aboard. Grateful for a broad brimmed hat, she dabbed her flushed face as the crowd began to move nearer the pedestrian stairway alongside a steady stream of traffic driving into the hold. It’s amazing what an efficient master plan is actually at work under this comically chaotic surface. A sort of ‘method in madness’, I suppose. Within twenty minutes of docking, the Aegean Princess was setting a course for the islands.

After several attempts, she finally reached the reception area to find out where her cabin was. Smiling, she handed her travel coupon across the gleaming beech wood counter to a naval officer who frowned at her.

Thees eez not the right ticket! Had she misunderstood his strong accent.
Excuse me, what did you say?
Thees ticket eez for a chair – not a cabeen.
What do you mean. . . I paid for an overnight outside cabin.
Naaw! Thee price for cabeens is feefty-five euros extra.
That can’t be. They told me at the ticket office –
They make meestake.
No they couldn’t have. I’m sorry, but I paid for a cabin and I must get one – with a porthole. You see, I get claustrophobia, and the man said. . .
I dawnt care gwhat he said – you are ghere now. Gwhat I say eez right.
In that case, can I please speak to the purser?
I am the poorser.
You are? What now? Perhaps tears will help! .
I don’t believe this. It’s not fair. I’ve already paid for an outside cabin. Although it was so expensive, I decided to treat myself to one and now I don’t have any more euros. Please can’t you do something to help me?” She sniffed into a tissue while he glared at her.

Naw! I cannot ghelp you
Oh please, sir! She sobbed loudly, wiping her eyes.
Wait gheer. I will speek weeth the Kapitanios.

She sat down on her back-pack while a heated Greek exchange ensued. Maybe they’d relent after all! But the purser’s black walrus moustache bobbed up and down as the handsome captain, with raised voice and much head-shaking, was punctuating his words with a rigid right forefinger. This doesn’t look too promising. She buried her face in the tissue again and blew her nose. The purser’s large bronzed hand touched her shoulder.

It’s OK, mees. Kapitanios Nikos says you may ghave a cabeen.
Oh thank you so much! Has it got a porthole?
A gwhat?
A window that can open
Yes, of course! Thank goodness for that – it pays to be so persistent. A young attendant led her through a maze of long corridors two decks above. He stopped outside a cabin and flung the door open on a startled young couple who quickly disentangled themselves.

Wait here while I get another key.

She lay on her side looking at the full moon through the porthole that was never meant to be opened and smiled to herself. So what. . . the air conditioning was working and a cold shower was all one needed in such intense heat. She turned over on the crisp white cotton bed linen and closed her eyes.

Yvonne Romano

The myth lives on

(A giant, a castle, a secret document, descent into the underworld)

The silhouette of his huge head dwarfed the backdrop of milkwoods, lagoon and sky.  He picked distractedly at the stubble on his neck.  A larger-than-life figure, his presence pervaded the cavernous bar room which was lined with mirrors and yellow wood shelves that bulged with macho mementos, gadgets and trophies.  An outsized beer mug frothed over, creating a pool of foam on the highly polished mahogany counter.   He sighed loudly.  He was bored and needed a change – some new diversion, an exciting conquest.  A sexy bombshell …  His fleshy lips glistened with saliva.

The room was cold; its hard surfaces made his booming voice reverberate from wall to wall.  A servant entered uncertainly.  “Wat kan ek vir Master bring?” she asked twisting the corner of her frilly white apron.  “Ek het sterk koffie nodig – soet and swart soos my vroumense!”  She flinched and disappeared quickly in the direction of the kitchen.

He looked around at the priceless antiques and Persian carpets that depressed him so.  He felt trapped and the urge for adventure surged through his large frame.  How to increase his fortune?  There was very little prime property left along the coastline and those bloody industrial shares that Mike had recommended were not showing much growth!

His wife seemed to be getting steadily greedier and making more and more financial demands – her son studying medicine in Edinburgh, her mother doing the grand tour in the States and all at his expense!  It was time to shed some of this entourage and bring some fresh talent into his castle.  He reached for the mobile phone which looked like a silver snuff box in his massive hand.

“Hello baby angel!  How’s Plett?” he crooned.  “So why don’t you stay on if the weather’s so ‘divine’”.  The corners of his mouth curled in contempt.  “ Have I got a surprise for you, baby!” he continued. “ How about a few luxury nights at Botlierskop?  The manager there owes me one!”

It shouldn’t be difficult to stage an ‘accident’ on one of the elephant rides or game drives. “Oh Gol,” she cooed, “that sounds amazing!”  He could visualize her big green eyes widening and those lush eyelashes fluttering like butterflies.  A glint of steel flashed in his eyes as he stage-whispered “Love you too, baby!” and put down the phone.

The giant lowered his bulk onto an enormous black leather settee and gazed into his coffee which seemed to ripple out into ever-widening circles.  He became mesmerized by the bottomless blackness into which he slowly began lowering himself, sinking ever deeper into diabolical schemes to end the life of his fifth wife, Pet.  A murky plan began to form in his warped mind.  Elephants and game were too unpredictable. Better to bribe a ranger into enticing her onto the river on the pretext of bird- watching upstream.  After all, small craft have been known to capsize on occasion, he mused.

As he re-surfaced from the indigo liquid, a shimmering package caught his eye.  He reached out and picked up an envelope wrapped in plastic.  He unwound it carefully, untied the golden ribbon that bound it and began to read the contents of his great Uncle Basil’s last will and testament.  His eyes bulged in awesome disbelief.  The proceeds of the vast fortune would be his, but only on condition that he remained a faithful, loving husband to his wife.  Should anything untoward happen to her, not a cent would be his.

Mentally reeling like someone snatched from the jaws of death, he gratefully wiped the perspiration from his brow and reached for the TV remote.  A beach scene filled the gigantic screen.  He watched in growing horror and a crescendo of his anguished groans gradually flooded the room.  Cradled in the lifesaver’s bronzed arms, Pet’s lifeless body hung limply.  Her kayak had overturned.

Yvonne Romano

roller-coaster ride

up hills, down dales we go
turning, twisting side-to-side
life’s pathway’s sometimes like
a roller-coaster ride

my breath is snatched away
as
we
swish
downhill
i shriek in joy and fear
from terror laced with thrill

up hills down dales we go
turning, twisting side-to-side
life’s pathway’s sometimes like
a roller-coaster ride

my hair streams out behind
roots clinging to my head
icy air zips past
my nose turns tingle red

up hills down dales we go
turning, twisting side-to-side
life’s pathway’s sometimes like
a roller-coaster ride

slope
upward
the
plod
we
labouring with strain
is the effort really worth it?
we’ll just slip back again

up hills down dales we go
turning, twisting side-to-side
life’s pathway’s sometimes just
a roller-coaster ride

we’re poised on top a moment
with the world stretched out below
then gravity takes over . . . and
hurtling
down
we
go!

Yvonne Romano

Writing from the source

Deep in my body behind thought
inside me, lodged far down
it lies there waiting
like a seam of ore
A hard and steep descent
to the wellspring of my being
that fertile inner space
My brush, my pen gives life to it
it takes its first breath
– feels its own skin
– smells its first smell
the fledgling lives

The fledgling lives
it smells its first smell
– feels its own skin
– takes its first breath
my brush, my pen gives life to it
That fertile inner space
at the wellspring of my being
a hard and steep descent
Like a seam of ore
it lies there waiting
inside me, lodged far down
deep in my body behind thought

Yvonne Romano

Spiti

Strident choruses of cicadas vibrate in the shimmering midday heat.
Along the dry, dusty path Eleni reaches the fisherman’s kalivi.  A blue and white cotton cloth covers the white-washed doorway.  She moves the drape aside and steps into the dark interior.  Jianni gets up from the rusty iron bed and kisses her on both cheeks, his grizzly beard stroking her face.  He always smells of the sea and the touch of his tanned leathery hands is rough and warm.  “Kafe?” he grins, igniting a flame under the copper briki, and she is soon dipping a koulouri into the strong, sweet brew.  Bouzouki ballads crackle on the old transistor radio. 
Skyllo, his black labrador, lies at her feet.
She’s home.

She’s home.
Skyllo, his black labrador, lies at her feet.
Bouzouki ballads crackle on the old transistor radio. “Kafe?” he grins, igniting a flame under the copper briki and soon Eleni is dipping a koulouri into the strong, sweet brew.  He always smells of the sea and the touch of his tanned leathery hands is rough and warm. Jianni gets up from the rusty iron bed and kisses her on both cheeks, his grizzly beard stroking her face. She moves the drape aside and steps into the dark interior. A blue and white striped cotton cloth covers the white-washed doorway. Along the dry, dusty path, Eleni has reached the fisherman’s kalivi.
Strident choruses of cicadas vibrate in the shimmering midday heat.

Yvonne Romano

Dog-paddle

Awash on the warm shores of memory
I glide through the cool unknown
My music comes from deep inside
A swell of harmony, rhythm and sound

I glide through the cool unknown
My pen doggy paddling along
A swell of harmony, rhythm and sound
I build sandcastles in the sun

My pen doggy paddling along
An ocean of themes, ideas and dreams
Awash on the warm shores of memory
I build sand castles in the sun

Yvonne Romano

Dusk 
    
Dusk lingers briefly merging dark with light   
its flimsy mantles cast a gauzy glow   
a bridge connecting daytime to the night

The sky an awesome ever-changing sight      
from apricot to darkening indigo  
dusk lingers briefly merging dark with light. 

Two hadedahs announce their homeward flight
reflected in the glassy lake below      
a bridge connecting daytime to the night
        
White moths on trailing jasmine soon alight   
I smell Greek island scents of long ago    
dusk lingers briefly merging dark with light.
         
Mosaic memories however slight     
suffuse my mind in constant ebb and flow  
a bridge connecting daytime to the night

I dream of how you set my life alight       
and cling to moments past I must let go     
dusk lingers briefly merging dark with light
a bridge connecting daytime to the night

Yvonne Romano

leave the daylight . . . and go underground

I take a deep breath and dive
off the rocks into the clear
aquamarine water

below. Today I’m going to go
deeper than the turquoise
shallows underneath

the surface and leave
the rainbow-coloured ocean
garden far behind.  Like Alice

going through the looking
glass, deeper and deeper I go
towards

the dark cavern looming mysterious
and murky.  Blackness envelops
me like a mantle.   My skin

prickles. I try not to dwell on what may be
lurking there.    Will I become
entangled in weeds?    Will I

get stuck, not be able to
escape    Go on.    Don’t
turn round.   Keep going.
 
Something grips my ankle.
 I shudder.    I feel
 the tentacles cling.   I stop

breathing, but manage to
paddle very slowly.   I glimpse a
narrow shaft of light

in the tunnel.      It opens
to a crystal-lined dome of breath-
taking beauty. I gaze in

awe at  facets glowing in rainbow hues

Version 2 – changing linebreaks; changing the feeling of a poem 

leave the daylight . . . and go underground

I take a deep breath and dive off the rocks into the clear aquamarine water
below. Today I’m going to go deeper than the turquoise shallows below
the surface, leave the rainbow-coloured ocean garden far behind.  Like Alice

going through the looking glass, deeper and deeper
I go towards   the dark cavern looming mysterious  and murky. Blackness
envelops me like a mantle. My skin   prickles. I try not to dwell on what may be

lurking there.  Will I become  entangled in weeds? Will I   get stuck, not be able
to  escape? Go on. Don’t  turn round. Keep going. Something grips my ankle. 
I shudder. I feel  the tentacles cling.   I stop  

breathing, but manage to paddle very slowly.   I glimpse a narrow
shaft of light   in the tunnel. It opens to a crystal-lined dome of breath
-taking beauty. I gaze  

in awe at facets glowing in rainbow hues.

Yvonne Romano

My love

I long for you to take me in your arms
– someone wanting me as much as I need you
someone to share with when the day is done –

I dream of soaring to skies of blue with wisps of white
un-furling my kite, you let me go
then gently tug me home

hand in hand we stroll along the winding shore
you help me set my fears aside
I dive headfirst into the swell
I mount the swaying gangplank
I cross the rickety bridge

my words spill onto the empty page
I smile into the looking-glass
thank you, my love

Yvonne Romano

Desire


The scent of jasmine wafts up to the bay window where she sits looking out, longingly.  A muted owl hoot breaks the silence and she stares intently to see where it is perched, in the huge oak tree below. A cat sidles insolently out of the shadows and crosses the moonlit lawn.  An evening like this and no one to share a little midsummer madness with!   Her eyes fall on the hammock slung from the branches.  Would it be possible to make love in it without tipping over?  A wry smile creases the corners of her mouth. The village clock strikes but she doesn’t count the strokes.  Who cares what time it is, anyway?  She has no schedule to keep; no acorns to bury before the fall!

She walks quietly downstairs and lifts the latch.  Her bare feet caress the smooth cold cobbles but the fire inside her continues to blaze.  She passes the icebergs, moving lightly as the moths that flit from bloom to bloom.  Where is that owl?  Did Athena’s mascot ever play hide-and-seek with her?  Standing motionless in the shadows, she listens for a tell-tale sound amidst the dense foliage.

A soft footfall from behind makes her swing round and his tall silhouette towers above her. A moment’s pause and they rush into each other’s arms.  Hungry kisses, fingers tearing at her flimsy nightdress.  She struggles with the buckle at his waist.  Swaying like a couple caught in a vortex, they spiral downwards onto the soft dewy grass.  He throws his jacket down and her long glistening hair lies tousled beneath him. 

A sudden rush of air and swoop of wings.  The owl, as if affronted by this wanton display, alights close by, its luminous yellow eyes glowing as if in disapproval.  They scramble up and hastily cover their naked bodies from its penetrating gaze.

 The spell broken, they scurry from sight as the silver Mercedes purrs into the pebbled driveway.