Roots by James Penha

indonesia encik adnan

Batang, Western Sumatra
by James Penha

The roots of the two banyan trees poured themselves
like rivulets into the Batang River—
one from the eastern bank, one from the west—
competing for the endless torrents gods grant Sumatra.
The village elders who met at the full moon
beneath each tree loved their own banyan so much
they needed to destroy its rival and so sent
machete warriors across the rapids
where, matched and met, blood whirled
downstream for decades.
Even children swung on the roots
like mad monkeys to attack the other shore.
Entangling limbs in knots, they hung
like ripened fruit
before they fell on the reddened rocks.
Left to themselves, the roots of the trees
wound around and within themselves
until there was no end among them
and later innocents called the bridge of roots
a natural wonder and crossed from side
to side.

Originally published in Lunarosity 7.3 (2008).

PHOTO: Root bridge, Indonesia, by Encik Adnan, used by permission. 

poet on bridge

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Oddity Central, among other sources, claims that the Batang Root Bridge (Jambatan Akar) “was built in 1890, by Pakih Sohan, a Muslim teacher from Lubuak Glare, disappointed by the fact that students from Pulut-pulut couldn’t attend his classes on Islam and Quran recitations due to the Batang Bayang river that separated the two settlements. He planted two small Jawi-jawi—a type of  broad-leaf banyan tree—and started stringing their roots around a stem bridge made of bamboo. It took approximately 26 years for Jembatan Akar to become the sturdy bridge it is today, and with each passing year, it becomes even stronger, as the banyan tree roots continue to grow.” But when I first crossed the bridge two decades ago, before I had read any such putative histories, I heard from a riverside storyteller, a very different story that forms the narrative of my poem.

PHOTO: The author on the root bridge in Batang, Western Sumatra, Indonesia. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work has lately appeared in several anthologies: The View From Olympia (Half Moon Books, UK), Queers Who Don’t Quit (Queer Pack, EU), What We Talk About It When We Talk About It, (Darkhouse Books), Headcase, (Oxford UP), Lovejets (Squares and Rebels), and What Remains (Gelles-Cole). His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha

Elegy for the Quagga by Sarah Lindsay


Elegy for the Quagga
by Sarah Lindsay

Krakatau split with a blinding noise
and raised from gutted, steaming rock
a pulverized black sky, over water walls
that swiftly fell on Java and Sumatra.
Fifteen days before, in its cage in Amsterdam,
the last known member of Equus quagga,
the southernmost subspecies of zebra, died.
Most of the wild ones, not wild enough,
grazing near the Cape of Good Hope,
had been shot and skinned and roasted by white hunters.

When a spider walked on cooling Krakatau’s skin,
no quagga walked anywhere. While seeds
pitched by long winds onto newborn fields
burst open and rooted, perhaps some thistle
flourished on the quagga’s discarded innards.
The fractured island greened and hummed again;
handsome zebras tossed their heads
in zoos, on hired safari plains.
Who needs to hear a quagga’s voice?
Or see the warm hide twitch away a fly,

see the neck turn, curving its cream and chestnut stripes
that run down to plain dark haunches and plain white legs?
A kind of horse. Less picturesque than a dodo. Still,
we mourn what we mourn.
Even if, when it sank to its irreplaceable knees,
when its unique throat closed behind a sigh,
no dust rose to redden a whole year’s sunsets,
no one unwittingly busy
two thousand miles away jumped at the sound,
no ashes rained on ships in the merciless sea.

SOURCE:  Poetry (October 2008)

IMAGE: “The Quagga” (1804) by Samuel Daniell from the series African Scenery and Animals. (Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

NOTE: “Elegy for the Quagga” addresses two events from 1883 —  the death on August 12 of the last quagga in a zoo in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa (Krakatau) in Indonesia on August 26. Like other animal species that disappeared in  Africa during the 19th century, the quagga was hunted to extinction. Since 1987, a breeding project has been under way in South Africa to produce an animal with the physical characteristics of the quagga,  particularly its yellowish-brown color and the unusual striping pattern.This is possible because of DNA testing, which showed that the quagga was not a distinct zebra species as once believed, but one of several subspecies of Plains zebra. Through selective breeding of these close relatives, the project has succeeded in producing animals that closely resemble the original quagga. For more information and to find out how you can help, visit

Krakatoa Erupts

ABOUT KRAKATOA: The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa began on the afternoon of Sunday,  August 26, 1883 and peaked on the late morning of Monday, August 27, 1883, when over 70% of the island of Krakatoa, Indonesia, and its surrounding archipelago were destroyed as it collapsed into a caldera. The eruption was one of the deadliest and most destructive volcanic events in recorded history and explosions were so violent that they were heard 3,000 miles away. At least 36,417 deaths are attributed to the eruption and the tsunamis it created. The explosion is believed to be a source of inspiration for Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting The Scream. The reddish sky in the background is the artist’s memory of the effects of the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa, which tinted skies red in parts of the Western hemisphere for months during 1883 and 1884.

IMAGE: Published as Plate 1 in The eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena. Report of the Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society (London, Trubner & Co., 1888).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Lindsay was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and earned a BA from St. Olaf College and an MFA from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She is the author of the full-length poetry collections Primate Behavior (Grove Press, 1997), a finalist for the National Book Award, Mount Clutter (Grove Press, 2002), Twigs and Knucklebones (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), and Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). Lindsay’s work is known for its lyricism and inclusion of scientific facts, theories, and methods.  Her honors and awards include a Pushcart Prize, the Carolyn Kizer Prize, and J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize as well as a Lannan Literary Fellowship.

The Laneway by Frances Daggar Roberts

italy stefano valeri

The Laneway
by Frances Daggar Roberts

You can measure the weight
of Italian Autumn days
in flowers and colours.
This day is ochre-shaded
with a heavy drugging perfume
of ripe fruit.
We walk down the narrow cobbled ways
familiar now with clumps of weeds,
the corners where dogs defecate,
the fences where grapes hang
within our reach,
the gardens where the voices call

PHOTO: Laneway in Italy, near Rome. Photo by Stefano Valeri, used by permission.

NOTE: Lariano is a municipality in the Metropolitan City of Rome in the Italian region Lazio, located about 22 miles southeast of Rome on the Alban Hills.

lariano grandma

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is based on the simplicity and beauty of the area around Lariano, Italy, where members of my family have lived for many years. The poem is intended to reflect a local joy in gardening and the celebration of a cherished,  fruitful, and hard-working district.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Here, I’m discussing my pictures with Nona (Grandma) in Lariano.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frances Daggar Roberts is an Australian poet who grew up in a remote area, where she began to write poetry to capture the love she felt for plants, animals, and landscape. She now lives in a bushland setting close to Sydney and works as a psychologist treating significant anxiety and depression.

The Starlings by Jesper Svenbro

Italy rome greg seed

The Starlings
by Jesper Svenbro

Translated from the Swedish by John Matthias and Lars-Håkan Svensson

Late one afternoon in October
I hear them for the first time:
loud-voiced palavering, whistles, murmurs,
quarrels, bickering and warbling, croaking and chatter
in the high plane trees of the street.
The leaves are all turning yellow this time of year,
causing huge yellow sunlit rooms
to appear at the level of the fifth and sixth floors
opposite the barracks, where the tram turns off
from the Via delle Milizie.
Solid branches, twigs, and perches:
every bit of space is taken up in this parliament of starlings!
They are tightly bunched together there among the leaves;
and the hundreds of thousands of starlings
that perform their flying exercises
against the backdrop of the evening’s mass of motionless cloud
will surely soon have lost their places:
there are myriads of swarming punctuation marks out there,
starlings flying in formation,
sudden sharp turns, steep ascents,
swarm on delightful swarm
against a rosy cloud bank in the east.
The October evening is cool.
The shop windows of the Via Ottaviano are shining.
And the starlings are chattering, quarreling and laughing,
whispering and quietly enjoying themselves, when suddenly
a blustering as of ten thousand pairs of sharp-edged scissors
passes through the republic of the plains—
it is as though an alarm had sounded,
heard as an echo over the muffled traffic.
Soon the darkness of night will fall.
But the starlings up there won’t stop talking,
they move together, push one another, chatter and flit.
Virgil must have had them in mind when somewhere he likens
the souls of the deceased to flights of birds
which toward sundown
abandon the mountains and gather in high trees.
I seem to be standing in an Underworld
in the midst of a swarm of birds.
The block is Virgilian; the street is crossed
by the Viale Giulio Cesare,
where you lived
for some time before you died.
That’s why I am stopping here.
The souls of the dead have gathered in the trees.
Their number is incredible, suddenly it seems ghastly;
is this what it will be like?
For a moment I am a prisoner
of the poem I am writing.
There must be an exit.
The soldier coming up to me
has noticed that I have been standing
for quite some time looking up into the foliage—
into the darkness of feathers, bird’s eyes, and beaks.
The peasant boy inside him apprises me
of the fact that starlings come in vast migrations
“from Poland and Russia”
to spend the winter in the south:
“And things go very well for them!
In the daytime they fly out to the countryside
and spend the night in here,”
he explains with great amusement, turning his gaze
up toward the swarm of birds. Their anxiety seems to have ceased;
in just a moment they all seem to have fallen asleep.
Only single chirps and clucks are heard
from starlings talking in their sleep.
What are they dreaming of? Ten thousand starlings are dreaming in the
about the sunlight over the fields.
As for myself, I am thinking of the tranquility
in certain restaurants in the countryside,
in the Albano Mountains and on the Campagna—
the tranquility at noon on a sunny day in October.
I am filled with the clarity of the fall day.
And am touched by something immeasurable, transparent,
which I cannot describe at first
but must be everything we never said to each other.
There are so many things I’d like to say.
How shall I be able to speak?
Today you are not shade, you are light.
And in the poem I am writing you will be my guest.
We are going to talk about Digenís Akrítas,
the Byzantine heroic poem
with the strangely compelling rhythm;
and since the manuscript of the poem
is preserved in the monastery at Grottaferrata
I shall order wine from Grottaferrata,
golden and shimmering in its carafe;
we shall talk about the miraculously translucent autumn poem by Petronius
which appears first in Ekelöf’s Elective Affinities;
and about Ekelöf’s poems, to which you devoted such attention.
Did Ekelöf ever come to Grottaferrata?
I seem to detect your lively gaze.
And we shall see how the starlings come flying
across the fields in teeming swarms.
They will come from Rome and spend the day out here
where they will eat snails, worms, and seeds
and suddenly they will fly up from a field
as at a given signal
and make us look into the sun.

In Memoriam Ludovica Koch (1941-93)

English translation copyright © 2003 by Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved

PHOTO: Starlings over Rome, Italy. Photo by Greg Seed.

italy starling joseph mathew

NOTE: (From Millions of Starlings breed in Northern Europe in the summer and return to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea in the winter months. These migratory birds prefer to nest in town due to the urban heat and abundant roosting spots in city parks and trees. By day, starlings fly to the countryside to find food in vineyards and olive groves. A downside to this avian invasion is noise and waste, but there is an upside — the magical sight of large flocks of starlings flying in formation, a phenomenon called murmuration. Watch a National Geographic video of starling murmurations here.

PHOTO: Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) on a tree branch in Rome, Italy. Photo by Joseph Mathew, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jesper Svenbro was educated at Lund University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1976 for his dissertation La parole et le marbre: aux origines de la poétique grecque, on the origin of ancient Greek poetics. He is director of research at Centre Louis Gernet (CRCSA) in Paris. In 2006, he was elected a member of the Swedish Academy, succeeding the poet Östen Sjöstrand in seat 8. His poetry has been translated into English by the Swedish critic Lars-Håkan Svensson and the American poet John Matthias, and appears in Poetry Magazine and his collection The Three-Toed Gull: Selected Poems  (Northwestern University Press, 2013).

I-70, Crossing Kansas by Sarah Russell

kansas licensed Mkopka

I-70, Crossing Kansas
by Sarah Russell

Asphalt casts a line to the horizon.
It’s early May—wheat, a nascent green,
and plowing started for the corn. Clouds loom
like gargoyles in the west with slanted rain
a hundred miles ahead. Billboards reading
Quilt Cottage and Gove City Yarns share
the berm with Jesus Saves. Stuckey‘s kitsch
and pecan logs have given way to services
for 18-wheelers. A bellied driver, stiffened
from the road, buys a Hillerman audio book
and a tin of RedMan, flirts with a girl behind
the counter who knows better than to trust a man
with shallow roots. No forests here, just winter-crippled
cottonwoods along the gullies where Angus, innocent
and black, graze until their harvest. Towns appear,
modest skylines dwarfed by corporate silos—cathedrals
to Manna. Sturdy land, proud of soldiers and subsidies,
apple pies and new John Deeres—a foursquare fulcrum
between the ivied East and barefoot West.

PHOTO: Wheat Jesus billboard, off I-70, near Colby, Kansas. Photo by Mkopka, used by permission.  Read more about the billboard at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Twice a year, my husband and I travel by car from State College, Pennsylvania, to Denver, Colorado, for extended visits with children and grandchildren. I usually find a poem along the way


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Poppy Road Review, Misfit Magazine, Rusty Truck, Third Wednesday, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has two poetry collections published by Kelsay Books, I lost summer somewhere  and Today and Other Seasons. She blogs at

Across Kansas by William Stafford


Across Kansas
by William Stafford

My family slept those level miles
but like a bell rung deep till dawn
I drove down an aisle of sound,
nothing real but in the bell,
past the town where I was born.

Once you cross a land like that
you own your face more: what the light
struck told a self; every rock
denied all the rest of the world.
We stopped at Sharon Springs and ate—

My state still dark, my dream too long to tell.

PHOTO: Kansas sky, clouds, bare tree and hay bales. Photo by Laura Seaman on Unsplash

sharon springs, ks

NOTE: For thousands of years, the Midwestern state now known as Kansas was home to Native American tribes. The area was first settled by Americans in 1827 and became a state of the Union in 1861. Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing high yields of wheat, corn, sorghum, and soybeans. With an area of 82,278 square miles, Kansas is the 15th-largest state by area, and is the 34th most-populous, with about three million residents. 

IMAGE: Vintage postcard of Sharon Springs, Kansas, the town mentioned in “Across Kansas” by William Stafford. (Source: Kansas Historical Society.) Sharon Springs is located in western Kansas, near the Colorado border. As of the 2010 census, the population was 748. 

william stafford

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Edgar Stafford (1914-1993) was appointed the twentieth United States Poet Laureate in 1970, at the time referred to as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, the oldest of three children. During the Depression, his family moved from town to town as his father looked for work. Stafford helped contribute to family income by delivering newspapers, working in sugar beet fields, raising vegetables, and working as an electrician’s apprentice. He received a B.A. from the University of Kansas in 1937. In 1941, he was drafted into the United States armed forces, but declared himself a pacifist. As a registered conscientious objector, he performed alternative service from 1942 to 1946 in the Civilian Public Service camps. The work consisted of forestry and soil conservation work in Arkansas, California, and Illinois.  He received his M.A. from the University of Kansas in 1947, and in 1954 received a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Stafford was 46 years old when his first major collection of poetry was published, Traveling Through the Dark, which won the 1963 National Book Award for Poetry.  The title poem is one of his best known works. Stafford’s poems are typically short, focusing on details of daily life. Stafford said in a 1971 interview, “I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don’t have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out either. It is just going steadily along.” He kept a daily journal for 50 years, and composed nearly 22,000 poems—about 3,000 of these were published. Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford was released by Graywolf Press in 2014.

How to Cross a Street in Saigon by Tina Hacker

vietnam tero hakala licensed

How to Cross a Street in Saigon
by Tina Hacker

Streets, sidewalks,
hotel courtyards,
storefront verandas,
grassy swaths of park,
any unoccupied spaces
become stages
for vehicles.

Walk in a straight line,
avoid swerving or stopping.
Maintain an even tempo,
a ballerina dancing
to a baroque fugue,
exact steps from one
side to the other.

Seven million motorcycles
perform with the agility
of primas. Their turns
and changing cadences
mime twists and spins
as they miss you

by an inch.

The corps de ballet
of taxis, tuk tuks,
bicycles and rickshaws
execute practiced movements
to avoid hitting you
if your course is predictable.

Always stop
for trucks or buses.
Their roles, while vital,
ring gongs of danger.
If they could brake
with the strength of water,
turn with the speed of wind,

they would still hit you.
traffic signals.
Signs and lights.
The local population
sees them as annoying
intrusions on their routines.

You are never a target,
simply part of the dance
of progress.

Previously published in Lost River Review, 2016.

PHOTO: Traffic and pedestrians in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), Vietnam. Photo by Tero Hakala, used by permission.

NOTE: Ho Chi Minh City, also commonly referred to as Saigon, is the largest city of Vietnam, with a population of over 8.9 million within city proper and over 21 million within the metropolitan area. Located in southeastern Vietnam, the city surrounds the Saigon River and covers about 796 square miles. Colonized by France and Spain in 1859, and ceded to France by the 1862 Treaty of Saigon, the city was influenced by the French during their colonization of Vietnam. South Vietnam achieved independence from France in 1955. The conflict between the Communist North and Democratic South began in late 1955 and raged for 20 years. Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam until the end of the Vietnam War with the North Vietnamese victory in 1975. In 1976, the government of a unified Vietnam renamed Saigon to its current official name in honor of the communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When the tour guide told us how to “cross the street,” he received a tour-load of skeptical stares. But this poem shows how we crossed many streets, and resisted the impulse to close our eyes—anything to block out the countless vehicles that raced past us. I used Saigon instead of Ho Chi Minh City because all the guides and people we met used that term unless they thought someone from the government might be listening.

Tina in Saigon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tina Hacker, a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, was a finalist in New Letters and George F. Wedge competitions. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, both online and in print, including the Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers, San Pedro River Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, I-70 Review, The Fib Review, and Quantum Fairy Tales.  She has a full-length poetry book, Listening to Night Whistles, and a chapbook, Cutting It.  Since 1976, she has edited poetry for Veterans’ Voices, a national magazine of writing by military veterans.

PHOTO: The author in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, The Poem I Can’t Yet Name


The Poem I Can’t Yet Name
by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Translated from the Vietnamese by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and Bruce Weigl

For my grandmother

My hands lift high a bowl of rice, the seeds harvested
in the field where my grandmother was laid to rest.
Each rice seed tastes sweet as the sound of lullaby
from the grandmother I never knew
I imagine her soft face as they laid her down into the earth,
her clothes battered, her skin stuck to her bones;
in the great hunger of 1945; my village
was hungry for graves to bury all the dead.
Nobody could find my grandmother’s grave,
so my father tasted bitter rice for sixty-five years.

After sixty-five years, my father and I stood
in front of my grandmother’s grave.
I heard my father call “Mum,” for the first time;
the rice field behind his back trembled.

Two feet cling to the mud.
I listen in the burning incense to my grandmother’s soul spread;
uniting deep with the earth, taking root in the field,
she quietly sings lullabies, calling rice plants to blossom.

Lifting the bowl of rice in my hands, I count every seed,
each one glistening with the sweat of my relatives,
their backs bent in the rice fields,
the fragrance of my grandmother’s lullaby alive on each one.

PHOTO: Rice fields, Vietnam. Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh, used by permission.

que mai

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in a small village in the North of Việt Nam in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai migrated with her family to the South of Việt Nam when she was six years old. In 1993, Quế Mai received a scholarship from the Australian government to study in Australia for four years. Upon her return to Việt Nam, Quế Mai worked for several international organizations, including UN agencies, to foster Việt Nam’s sustainable development. Quế Mai’s main research area is the long-lasting impact of wars, and she has worked extensively with veterans and war victims. She has a Masters in Creative Writing with the UK’s Lancaster University and is a Honorary Fellow in Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University. Her PhD thesis focuses on her four research areas: the representation of women and disadvantaged groups in Việt Nam War fiction, the manifestation of trauma/PTSD in fiction, the ethics of creative writing, and how to maintain the Vietnameseness of her writing in English. Quế Mai has been honored with the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, First Prize, as well as the Việt Nam Writers Association’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advancement of Vietnamese Literature Overseas. The Los Angeles Review of Books, in their review of Quế Mai’s The Secret of Hoa Sen calls her “one of Vietnam’s foremost contemporary poets.” Quế Mai’s latest work, The Mountains Sing, is her first novel and also the first book she has written in English. Read more about the author and her work at

Persistent Memory by Jennifer Lagier

licensed giles bizet

Persistent Memory
by Jennifer Lagier

Inside Monet’s house, copper pans against
blue wallpaper, vivid canvas vignettes.
Artists stroll along midnight boulevards,
inhabit Parisian kitchens, Bohemian salons.

Outside, beneath a weeping willow,
his green rowboat swings in the wind.
Watercolors immortalize shadows,
gravel shores, creaking vacancy.

Overlapping lily pads float upon
shimmering pond, refract wavy
impressions of wisteria, Japanese bridge,
feathery clumps of golden bamboo.

Painters set up easels, canvas,
create persistent memories
of inverted pink roses, liquid
delphinium, reflected azaleas.

PHOTO: Water garden at Claude Monet’s home and garden in Giverny, France, by Gilles Bizet, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the summer of 2003, I was fortunate to be part of a group from Hartnell College, students and instructors, who spent a week in Paris with side trips to Giverny and the Palace of Versailles.

monet giverny

NOTE: Claude Monet lived and painted in Giverny, France,  for 43 years — from 1883 until his death at age 86 in 1926. Monet had the nearby Epte River partially diverted for the gardens and hired up to seven gardeners to tend the grounds. Monet believed it was important to surround himself with nature and paint outdoors. The Fondation Claude Monet is a nonprofit organization that runs and preserves the house and gardens of Claude Monet. The village of Giverny is located 50 miles west-northwest of Paris in the province of Normandy.

PHOTO: Claude Monet next to the water lily pond at his garden in Giverny, France (early 1900s).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published eighteen books. Her work appears in From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Missing Persons: Reflections on Dementia, Silent Screams: Poetic Journeys Through Addiction & Recovery. Her newest book is Camille Comes Unglued (Cyberwit). Forthcoming is Meditations on Seascapes and Cypress (Blue Light Press). Visit her at

Closed by Lynn White


by Lynn White

It was a beautiful village,
the sun was shining,
the mountain air pure,
a perfect place for a coffee.
We could see two cafés,
but the first we tried was closed,
closed for a while by the looks.
The second looked hopeful
with tables and chairs outside
but the door was locked.
An elderly man came over and explained.
that it only opened at weekends.
The other had closed because
the people had left the village.
They all want to live in the town,
he told us
and now the houses are empty
and there are just a few tourists
who come at weekends to drink a coffee
or a beer.
He told us to sit at a table
and went into a house
across the street
and returned with a tray
and three good French coffees
made in his own kitchen.
So we sat in the sunshine
breathing in the pure mountain air,
a perfect place for a coffee
with our new friend.

First published in Erothanatos, Vol 2, Issue 4, October 2018

PHOTO: Saint-Béat village, Haute-Garonne department, France. The village is in southern France, near the border of Spain. Photo by Père Igor (2010), used by permission.

NOTE: Haute-Garonne is a department in the Occitanie Region of Southern France. Named after the Garonne River, its prefecture and main city is Toulouse, the country’s fourth-largest.  Haute-Garonne is one of the original 83 departments created on March 4, 1790 during the French Revolution.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was written about one of the villages in the Haute-Garonne area, near Toulouse, France, in the spring of 2001.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy, and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud “War Poetry for Today” competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications, including Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal, and So It Goes. Find Lynn at and on Facebook.