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.

 

 

 

II         Tremors

 

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.

 

 

 

IV       Inside

 

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.

 

 

 

VII      Visitors

 

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.