solar eclipse, Crete, 11 August 1999
the car’s an incubator/ even
with the windows down/ squashed
in the back of the boxy rental/ I’m taller
than both my parents/ radio says/ today
will hit 40°C/ we’re too far south/ to wow
at the diamond ring/ for the sky to dim/
pacing the water’s edge/ in the brooding
heat/ the clammy nylon of my swim shorts
clings/ I kick and kick/ the breathless
sea/ next month/ I can learn to drive/ buy
alcohol/ gamble/ next month/ I’ll find
my cool release/ in the shadows
of England’s parks/ next month/
They prayed for incorruptible bodies,
for voices in their heads to stop
their sermons. Guided by the orange glow
of digital shells, they rode trains
to end-of-the-line places
they’d never have otherwise known.
Their hosts administered communion,
measuring drop by bitter drop, at bedsides,
kitchen islands, in sitting rooms with views
of motorways. Tingle-fingered ecstasy
came first: everyone blossomed, crowned
with blue chemical halos.
Lips left ex-votos of spittle all over
their skin. Tiled lino floors slipped from under
their feet, limbs lifted as every insult
that clung like wax melted away.
Then came the test some call going under,
others wrestling the devil.
Senses suspended, they lay on sofas
or tangled flokati rugs, while the others watched.
Many minutes passed, sometimes an hour or two.
Those who came back reported no memory,
but showed bruises and bleeding tears.
Those who failed shivered themselves off
in torrents of sweat, turned their eyes
to their brains and were gone.
They were mourned, of course they were –
but their prayers for total release had been
answered. Look for them online. Frozen
as young men, smiling forever, incorruptible.
Midnight in Hyde Park Rose Garden
after Seán Hewitt
glory be to the ρόδο, queen’s fragrant
delight, shameless flower of heaven.
glory be to the patient gardener, who tends
this moist earth, settles, unsettles
these rich beds. & tonight
let us praise darkness
gathering our roofless passion here.
praise to the discreet petals
that indulge our unorthodox desire.
& rejoice as sight gives way
to careful touch, the sweet scent, palmed
spittle, sweat. glory, too, to the thorns
that snag unbuttoned shirts, graze
surrendered skin. good soil, please forgive
our mindless scattering of rubber, accept
our offering of nameless seeds.
Kostya Tsolakis is a London-based poet and journalist, born and raised in Athens, Greece. In 2019 he won the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition (EAL category). He founded and co-edits harana poetry, the online magazine for poets writing in English as a second or parallel language, and is deputy poetry editor at Ambit. His debut pamphlet will be published by ignitionpress in November 2020.