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The River of Relleu

Hilary Elfick


The boats that drifted up the valley are all gone.
The water sank slowly terrace by terrace until
it became at last this choked stream hid by oleander.

Floating weed hangs drying, herbal,
over broken limestone faces. Fishing nets
frustrate the rooster and keep the hens in.

The lighthouse and the castle both remain, the fort in ruins,
but the beacon became a chapel at the end of a Via Crucis.
The boats that carried pirates have all gone.

Dogs bark as they always did. Men's shirts are much the same.
Old women still clap hands to ward off flies.
The smell of fish has given way to thyme and rosemary.

Olives and oranges grow in straight lines across the plaza
where we mended nets and still find shells: this is one in my hand
pure white ruffles hard as alabaster lined with nacre.

Its smell has leached. It was lyiong on its own
in one small shadow along a thoudand miles of contours.
The nets are still in use. Eggs replaced the fish
and all the boats have gone.

Gulls give way to swallows, bee-eaters, orioles.
The merchant's house, with its proud frescos
falls derelict, its balcony crumbling.
Don't go there. Let the oleanders grow.



This poem is from 'The Outshift Places' Hilary's thirteenth collection published by Hen Run, Grey Hen Press 2016. She is a frequent visitor to Almassera Vella


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