I Calm Before
Yesterday, over the port, a setting sun
burned late and almost tranquil.
Rooftops, scorched by all-day heat,
began to cool on terraced apartment blocks
climbing the hillside above an old lagoon.
As darkness arrived so did streetlights,
joining rows of gleaming windows
mirrored and flickering in the water.
We sat on our balcony unfolding maps,
dressed for no-one except each other.
This morning, we woke earlier than usual.
At that point, according to official sources,
there was no clear indication how far up
the Richter scale today’s tremors might reach.
We bought fish, pastries, a melon, and found
some shade beside the market for a coffee.
The bookshop wasn’t open. We lay dozing
behind shutters as stultifying heat came on.
III Breakfast Network
Elegant ribbons, trimmed hexagons of fruit.
A range of bottled waters and fresh squeezed
juices from the kitchen. Most grey-suited staff
are confident, respecting required formalities.
For expatriates, there is always an element
of uncertainty - knowing we will have to pay
handsomely for each introduction, regardless
of any actual or perceived benefit it generates.
Smooth edged tiles where centuries of genuflection
have softened the crimson, gold and indigo glaze.
Neither hiding nor seeking anything like an escape,
we sit quietly inside and a market’s clatter is muffled.
V Quayside 2am
Taxis leave the city centre and gather here,
on the quayside, where another ferry-load
of strangers will be disembarking shortly.
Who knows what wickedness may still
occur, passing through these dark streets
where so few witnesses can be found.
VI Events Unfolding
In the beginning, there was no obvious pattern.
Neighbourhoods previously considered susceptible
were unaffected. While others, with no recent
history of instability, revealed unexpected faults
from which the disruption swiftly extended
along deep-rooted channels of loyalty and dislike.
Although many of the early incidents could not
be described as severe, how the city reacted
became a matter of habit. Hauling itself away
from harbour and shops, traffic choked
the muggy streets and its indolence gradually
overwhelmed the urgency of so many sirens.
A limestone arch in a stepped alley
winding up from the cobbled street
between windowless stuccoed walls.
In a narrow yard, sunlight is dappled
beneath the vine and a bougainvillea.
A flap opens to inspect the source
of our knocking. Catching our breath
from the steep walk, we wait quietly.
A mirror on the wall opposite allows
for the proper inspection of visitors.