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.
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
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.