Clair Chilvers

Clair Chilvers has had numerous poems published in journals and anthologies. Her first collection Out of the Darkness(Frosted Fire)was published in2021. She was a cancer epidemiologist and latterly worked for the UK National Health Service. She lives in Gloucestershire UK. Her forthcoming collection Island (Impspired Press) will be published in 2022. The poems published below are taken from the collection. All royalties from the sale of  Island will go to the charity Mental Health Research UK which she co-founded in 2008. http://clairchilverspoetry.co.uk/

Twenty Years On

I returned alone
to challenge the memories		
waited for my case by the new carousel
in the airport’s stifling heat
queued at an unexpected taxi-rank outside.

The rusty old ferry replaced by a hydrofoil,
that smelled of diesel, left a trail of black smoke. 
The journey so much quicker, 
no time to adjust to the slow Island pace.

I looked for my old friend in his yellow jeep
at the new port outside the harbour.		
Instead a clapped-out taxi met me
took me to a tiny modern studio,
where I could see the sunset every night
the mountains behind Igoumenitsa 
rising in hazy layers of grey.

Each morning I walked down the coast road
seeing Panagia in the distance
past the statue of the hero Anemoyiannis
with his flaming torch.

Babis’s shop a smart restaurant
but I found him, an old man,
sitting with his coffee, in the square,    
on the same old wooden chairs.
His daughters middle-aged, 
his youngest grandson on his knee,
he still shaking his head at the politics
the taxes, the cost of living.

His motor bike
that I rode side-saddle behind him
replaced by an electric bicycle.

The Vineyard   

Sunshine after two days of grey skies
 	we took the boat to Antipaxos     
famed in the old days    	for its execrable wine

the boatman counted us as we crammed aboard 
	took our tickets		ejected latecomers
off we went at speed	  holding our hats

past the statue of the hero with his flaming torch
	past the town beach        the bobbing heads
of Paxiot housewives	gossiping as they bathed 

past Eleftheria's metal-gated house
	past Mongonisi      and the island end
and as the wind whipped up 
we crossed the choppy open sea     
		to land at Antipaxos

there used to be one small café     a few umbrellas 
sardines cooked on a barbeque     
coarse bread     cold beer     
this time three tavernas bustled     
	sunshades all the way along the beach

the path from beach to vineyard rutted 
the vines unpruned     
wild-flowers among the tares 	the owner dead

but the sea the same    turquoise near the shore     
	further out the sudden change     to deep grey-green
  

Pilgrimage     

I went by the longer road
less steep in the heat
passed by tourists cautious in hire-cars
and helmet-less local lads speeding on Vespas
parcels piled behind them.

I stopped at Magazia to photograph the church
then walked zig-zag to catch the shade
to where the two roads meet, 
retraced my steps a little
and there was a new tarmac drive.

In the old days we walked through the olives
on a rocky path
to where the goats waited by the fence 
to eat the geraniums if they could.

I found a new gate,
the front door open, so I knocked.

A man with towel round his waist came out.
I told him my story
of buying the cottage more than thirty years before,
of passing bank notes 
under the counter at the consulate
where water dripped through the ceiling into buckets


of how donkeys with panniers 
brought the stone through the olive grove 
for a new cisterna 

and how we came back each Eastertime. 

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