Issue 18: Kate Noakes


I – Panorama

My eye is on the mountain in late

afternoon light, its monastery alive

the darkness of pines I can smell

from here, the rocky island

silhouetted in the bay

and you

in blueness, the soft sky

sea and the shops

selling Napoli shirts

but it has to be these

small plum tomatoes grown

on the slopes of Vesuvius

so sweet, so special.

II – Pompeii

Arms thrown back, face down

dirt-wards, I mistake plaster bodies

for inescapable ash

a set too hard to take in

and you

saying I’ve smothered, drained you

and it’s easier for passengers to sit

on the train than take the wheel

skimming the hem of the volcano.

I would’ve handed it to you had there been

a direction worth following.

III – Herculaneum

Lava, tufa, cinder, rock

for an easy build, hands

unburdened by pumice, add brick

tile and there we have it, a town

with marble for altars, few columns

buildings in the shadow

of a smoldering peak.

Make your house on a bulge

in the mantle and expect burning

and you

blowing the top from the cauldron

and I am no longer a complacent

citizen dailying about my life.

You say, even now, you want me

home, sealed in ashes

or facing another fire?

IV – Nel mercato

The largest lemons ever, melon-sized

thick-rinded, ripening, hang heavy

in solo nets, plucked from trees

somehow without tearing branches

and you and me

on different stalls either side of the sea

deciding how this will work.

I hope for enough sugar and skill

to spit pips without taking out an eye

or burning my stomach anymore.

Already drops of bile feed back

I’ve not brought any kaolin or morph.

V – Negozi chiesa

Monstrances, incense, statues,

robes, religious bling, how many

precious Jesuses need cribs?

and you

pretending it’s my fault

leaving you standing, naked

in the light as a babe, unable to fend

for yourself. What stopped you?

You are not a child.

VI – Sotto la villa color ocra

A white bearded goat nibbles

shoots on the cliff

sure-footed me on the right

though stoney path

and you

busy excavating, rerouting

making forks appear, switching back

forth, confused. The road is through

wild rosemary, self-seeded mustard

heat rising from the tarmac

a beacon, flaming.

VII – Il parco giochi

Wisteria purples the air sweet

for a moment of childishness.

I swing under its scent, you

beside me, our legs 

too long for the ground

my seat squeaking

and yours

silent as spring

as the gap growing between us

small as the leap to earth

when much can happen

in those seconds of flight

before the drop.

VIII – Capodimonte

The art collection in its decrepit

palazzo of ox blood walls is

impossible, even down to its café

serving soggy pizza.

We walk miles for a Caravaggio

Christ flayed

and you

emptying my heart

leave tatters, close down sections

of my past, declare them over

blacked out, filled with chairs

where I am no longer allowed to sit.

IX – Palazzo Reale

Sumptuous in its gold, its swags

clocks and ornaments pushed

to the sides of the splendid rooms

floors sheened high, but closely

in the royal palace there’s

dust, the dirt of decades

and you

leaving us.

Kate Noakes’ sixth collection is Paris, Stage Left (Eyewear, 2017). She is an elected member of the Welsh Academy and her website ( is archived by the National Library of Wales. She lives and writes in London.