He hovers inches from my forearm,
gunmetal grey, whirring like a model
of a military drone, mechanical,
but, for all that, an ancient presence.
I’m in a land-ringed cove, equatorial,
mid-ocean, yet so sheltered and stifling
that the sound of rough waves
Except for Schistocerca‘s wingbeats,
nothing disturbs the shroud wrapped
around these cemeteries named after ships
that patrolled East Africa centuries ago.
My new friend’s a desert locust, gregaria,
the kind that swarms in tens of thousands,
the species of biblical plagues,
but my companion today is a singleton,
rocked up like me at Comfortless Cove
where vessels once were quarantined
with typhoid, yellow fever, dysentery,
contracted on the coast of Senegal.
Ships limped back here for sailors
to find food, fresh water, to recover
or die – to be buried at sea
or find rest in these lonely plots.
My eyes return to the shallow graves
just for a second and, when I look back,
with a great emptiness I see
my fellow traveller has gone.
I never knew what I would be getting.
Every time you showed up in a fresh outfit
as if experimenting with a new wardrobe.
Each combo came with a different persona,
a whole tribe of them.
The success in the city in pin-stripes,
preppy loafer in argyle sweater,
hipster in lumberjack shirt,
shapeless shorts – and sandals,
for heaven’s sake.
And then, the rocker in black leather,
God help me.
Yes, I liked that look best
but found it hard not to snigger
when you creaked at sleeve and knee.
It wasn’t until you’d shown me everything
that the filters across my lens proved a distortion.
All versions had been blurry reflections,
two dimensional, temporary, untrue.
Naked, you were magnificent.
Sharon Larkin has been published in magazines (Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed with Pipework, Prole, Here Comes Everyone, Reach); on-line (including The Stare’s Nest, Open Mouse, Clear Poetry) and in anthologies (Cinnamon, Indigo Dreams, Eyewear, Fair Acre). She chairs Cheltenham Arts Council, chaired Cheltenham Poetry Society 2011-2015 and helps run Poetry Café – Refreshed in Cheltenham. Blog: Coming up with the Words https://sharonlarkinjones.com