Two Poems

Paul Stewart was born in Nottingham and read English at Bristol University. He currently teaches literature at the University of Nicosia. He is the author of Zone of Evaporation: Samuel Beckett’s Disjunctions ( 2006) and a number of articles on Beckett’s work. His first collection of poetry, And Other Elsewheres, was published in 2009.


Wanting feeling we moved
To beneath this open
Sky unblemished
Month by month by cloud
And by planes less trammelled.
We took the nightly lights for stars,
Tracing Orion with outstretched
Arms.  Always at the end
Of your road, showing how to wend
Your way home

You said, moving
Me to regret not knowing that street
With its dirt track and shapeless
Olive trees stretching
Across the fields in the dark,
And you young, trusting
Your feet and the heavens to guide you,
Whilst under an orange haze beneath the clouds
Seeing no sky to speak of
I would have then been wanting still.


The dignity of digging escapes me.
The thrust and cut and displacement of
Unwilling soil from a hole to a heap
Yields nothing more than more of the same.

Of course, Dad must have dug a lot to turn
The canal in-fill and sodding clay
Into the garden he cannot now leave.
Carefully trimmed careless exuberances
Of grasses and shrubs and flowers and trees
(Few of the names of which I know) can’t be
Removed en masse, nor recreated else-
Where, somewhere where the earth might be pliant.
It is too late to start digging again.

Other than the colours of sliced, wet clay,
Silver to blue to purple, I recall
Nothing; no intent form bending into
The dirt; not a deft deployment of skill
And strength; not an earth-clagged Wellington boot.
There are no consolatory dots to join the
Child’s bare pitch to the retired garden.
Even the clay’s hues are a Hopkins’ line,
Half-remembered, then appropriated.

Peach, pear, plum, apple and almond blossom
Are starting to tint the bare frames of the
Orchard trees as my son and his Pappou
Dig and chatter in English, Greek and Sam-
Speak. Pappou wealds a pick then shovels loose
Dirt into a barrow. Sam digs at a little distance
With his yellow-bladed trowel, scraping
The shifting earth from here to there. He stops,
Considers, and scrapes the earth back to here.

Each Friday, conference calls to Canada,
Investments and acquisitions are left
A while, perhaps forgotten, to tend
The newly acquired plot overlooking
Avdimou bay. He might hack at the flint
Ground to make way for the thyme that will dress
A dish he will cook himself, if only
To pick, prepare and serve the herb his hand
Had nurtured from skeletal, straggling twigs.

Nothing new will grow from today’s dig though.
A slag of builder’s cement overlays
The already rocky earth, and it is
This they dig, shovel, wheel away and dump
In an out-of-sight corner among a
Profusion of wild mustard left, it’s said,
To enhance the wild meadow feel of what
Once was a wild meadow before the diesel-
Powered diggers had cleared the site’s access.


The anemones poking through have been
Transplanted from a virgin field nearby.
The fruit trees, peach, pear, plum and all the rest
Were bought and brought for a hefty sum from
A nursery on the isthmus, itself
Once an orchard. The almonds alone still
Remain where they always were, blossoming,
Fruiting, letting velvety husks fall and crack
To expose nuts never meant for planting.

Carefully placed in a sliver of sun,
Coffee, tobacco and accoutrements
To hand, I watch Pappou duck and straighten,
Duck and straighten beyond the flowering bank;
Star-shaped purple and white resplendent heads
Which only uncurl with the sun and then
Track its course and final fall behind the
Bedraggled line of aged Cypresses
And purse their petals tight at the night’s first hint.

My son’s blond curls, almost white in the glare
Of a March, early morning sun, flutter
Between the flower stems and the fruit trees’
Boles. His chatter merges with the chirrups,
Squeaks and caws of sparrows, tits and swallows,
Lately arrived, as they recce the eaves
Of the veranda and confirm again,
Beak to beak, the bond which lasts a lifetime
Of flight and construction, flight and fledging.

I will help, by-and-by, when Pappou tires,
And shift the earth with my son from place to place.
Our two spades, small and yellow, large and grey,
Will dig, as once I must have dug in clay.