Issue 6: Chris Hardy

Circe’s Isle

We had been warned not to go, didn’t care

and went.

Disembarked at night and slept on a beach

near the quay.

The bus driver stopped at the end of his route,

from where

a track ran away across blades of stone,

through a scrub

of juniper, myrtle, thyme and spurge,

past a small church,

white amongst cypress and carob,

then on again

to a ledge on a cliff of rubble and red earth

above the shore.

All Summer into Autumn we camped there,

walking to the village

for mail, music, rice and beer

and to watch the people

in the evening as the air cooled,

and the stars appeared

like tiny searchlights high above the moon’s

opening, silver eye.

After swimming, drying off on slabs of rock,

smoking crumbs

of Chitrali hash in acorn cups of Kermes oak,

unvisited and unseen,

except at night sometimes, a steering pole

knocking on a hull,

the hiss of lamps firing rays of light into

a well of emerald glass.

Crossing the island we met a youth

in a blue shirt,

who pointed silently at razor-wire

and watch-towers

enclosing empty hills, then turned away.

On the walls

of an abandoned school children had painted

low, grey warships racing

across a flat blue sea, the swastika and

the flag of Italy.

Sitting outside a cafe a man joined us,

explained he was

working on the island but lived in the capital,

invited us to his villa,

across the bay from our encampment.

On the terrace

we ate squid, cheese and olives, drank

yellow, acrid wine.

He gestured at the mountain high above

our tent,

too small to see until he offered

heavy binoculars

and looking straight at us said that his friend

the chief of police

and he agreed we were the only visitors

to Circe’s Isle that year.

The dictator went into exile with

his bank accounts intact.

We got away with a threat, and knowing that

even if our self seeking

had been punished we would still have caught

that midnight plane,

slept in the corridor of the Customs House

beside the dock

and taken the ferry south at dawn

toward the islands.

You cannot undo the past before it happens,

everything remains

including all I have forgotten,

as still as shadows

on the ground at noon, the sun for ever


Here Weary Troops Were Sleeping*

3pm, the sun overhead unloading heat.

On the edge of the city, pale amber apartments,

dark windows, empty streets, take their siesta.

No one about to ask if this is where

to catch the bus back to the station,

we don’t want to ride out of town

into the fields, sprawling in the haze

like a weary soldier.

Buildings undulate slightly

in the simmering air,

insect sistrums rustle

in nearby gardens,

invisible people all around us sleep

the black deep sleep that appears

in curtained afternoon rooms,

coiling down from circling fans.

We are almost out on our feet

when the bus comes.

The driver says yes,

we rattle down the road

turn right

and are immediately in

a street of cars, trams,

buses, scooters

and people walking quickly

in and out of shops.

At the station

we board the train

and find it full of conscripts,

in loose camouflage tunics,

legs over tables, seat arms, heads

collapsed back, turned against

windows, resting on another’s shoulders,

mouths open and hands drooping

like ferns along the corridor,

dead to the world.

Sleep has shot them,

and as the train reaches

a long stretch of line by a river

we slide down the burning blue plastic seats

to join them in the abyss,

from which we later climb back up

into the dark, beneath a tree

of ice-cold stars.

* The Iliad 10.474

Chris Hardy’s poems have been published in numerous magazines and websites, including The Rialto, Poetry Review, The North, Tears in the Fence, Acumen,,, and nthposition. One of his poems won a prize in the National Poetry Society’s Competition, and another poem is in the 2009 Forward Prize Anthology. He has four poems in the new Eland anthology The Isles Of Greece and his collection A Moment Of Attention was published in 2008 by Original Plus. Chris is also a musician, and his CD Health To Your Hands is available from He plays in the trio LiTTLe MACHiNe performing settings of well known poems.