Peter Abbs is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Sussex and has published eleven volumes of poetry. At the moment he is writing a short history of the self, parts of which have been serialized in the London Magazine.
Orange Picking in Paros
And she wakes early to the voices of young girls
in the orange grove. What they are saying
she cannot make out; they are speaking a tongue
she hardly knows. Perhaps they are comparing the taste
of the juice: marmalade-sharp or mastica-sweet.
Or talking about the boys they dream of.
Or their first gulp of warm retzina. She has no idea,
but senses their carnal ease, the sun in their long dark hair,
the quick brook of their spontaneous speech.
And as she watches them tossing oranges through the trees
she sees a girl in a red dress gathering fruit in her arms.
In the heart of December such a harvest.
And she remembers herself at their age: upright at a desk,
in the nowhere of England, maroon jacket and tie,
biting her lips, perplexed by everything.
Lucien Freud: a Portrait
Look at the way he’s stripped to the waist,
shirt flung over a chair, ready to kill.
It’s not a matter of judgement or taste,
but voracious hunger under the rule of will.
Have you seen a hawk the instant it falls,
talons unsheathed, the precision of steel?
Call it a studio if you like, but it’s more
torture-chamber, brothel, butcher’s shop.
Dark streaks of red brutalise wall and floor.
Who said Put nature to the rack to stop
the allure of metaphor? Is that it? To see life raw:
sagging breasts, bloated belly, wrinkled vulva.
He drinks and slumps for hours
under the bald moon with stubbed-out stars.
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