It requires a steady gaze
to take it all in –
the Exe the shade of tin
the cliffs compressing Time
into layers of cake.
Millions of years after the Mesozoic,
a black man getting off the train
from St. David’s, bundled up
and except for Exmouth, ordinary,
only I recording the light in his eye.
This landscape stirs
a quiet dismantling of self:
like tree-thick, leaf-littered Woodbury,
where, awed and disconnected, I stumbled
from an interview into kind people, who
allowed me a phone call
in a place so damp and quiet and cold,
it was an alternate universe, in
an alternate universe.
In this old place so much is new.
I make daily voyages into Somerfield:
an explosion of nationalities, when
British identity is challenge enough.
Things to get used to
(and soon things to forget):
celeriac, lychees, satsumas, baguettes.
A boxed lunch of Red Curry, redolent
of lemongrass, shatters my notions
of geera and coriander.
And the things left for last:
the way they flinch when in talking
I touch them, forgetting the distance
and the difference
and one chilly morning up Rolle Street
a grinning carful of blokes
giving me the finger.
But this is also part of the picture:
the mother in the house on Waverley —
plump children and the run-down yard
that almost broke my resolve.
Yet she said yes to bottle after bottle
of my spices.
Would she know her generosity saved me
a million years of cynicism?