Our walking all done for the day,
we turn to the village platea and make
for its single taverna, mezedes in mind.
Nothing unusual in that. We’ve been
here before, know the place, know what
to expect. But not this. Over so soon
it feels almost imagined, that thing when
you speak of it later you’re half way
to doubting you’d seen it yourself.
A faint patter and rounding the corner,
from a lane we have yet to explore, come
two mules, brown as the watered earth,
two more, then a fifth, all a bit spooked.
Our host rushes out from his kitchen
herding them past his tables and chairs,
only to turn, as we do too, all five gone
over the way to the scrubland beyond,
to be stopped where he stood as one more,
pale as the whitewashed walls, steps stately
and proud in the rear, aloof from the herd,
barely there for a moment, then gone.
Σ΄αγαπώ πολύ, Ευτυχία: graffiti, Iloudia, Kea
Some dedicated lover could not wait
and these three pillars seemed to be
the perfect place to state the feelings
he hoped she would return. Or not.
We cannot ever know, since all we see
are words that maybe mock him now,
red paint his one exuberance. There’s
little grace, less style in what he wrote.
But who could miss this declaration
of his heart, in capitals to shout it out?
And you, his loved one, how did you
react? Nervous? Thrilled? Won over?
None can fail to hope that his affection
was returned, love grew as spelled out
on the pillars you pass by, maybe in age,
thinking how red letters meant so much.
Brian Johnstone’s poetry has appeared throughout Scotland, elsewhere in the British Isles, in Europe, America and Australia. He has published seven collections, most recently Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014), and Juke Box Jeopardy (Red Squirrel, 2018). His texts and readings are included on The Poetry Archive website. His memoir Double Exposure was published by Saraband in February 2017. brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk
Photograph: Steven Frith CC 2.0.