Three Poems of Out-of-Season Smells * Rob Lowe

Out of Season

Sand and stones and the sea
Wind and a hazy view
Clouds invading the sky
Sea defences below

Rocks groynes grey promenade
Solitary dog-walkers
Crash of winter shingle
Emptiness you can smell

You search for a tissue
Turn up your brown collar
You appear as closed up
As dead shrimps in their shell

Green stink of dry seaweed
Litter in the old Dingle
Whose muddy path threaded
Beside a gunged-up stream

Broken shopping trolleys
A couple of old bikes
By a defaced notice
About fines for dumping

Shuttered shop fronts and bars
An amusement arcade
Paint peels in hieroglyphs
From its rotting façade

Outside the Old Madoc
Blistered by December
A small group are fanning
With desultory talk

All they can remember
Of good times yesterday
They do this every year
They smoke drink then forget

 

Llandudno Out of Season

Sky and seas irregularly blended,
Unevenly at odds with cloud and mist;
A solitary sea-gull rides the wind;
My jacket blows in an ungainly shape.

These two are solitary scrawls of hope:
A little life within this empty scene
(Though litter mimics it, and runs madly
Parrot-fashion across a beach of stones) –

It is November. No tourists around:
The promenade is harsh as my backyard:
Unwanted kiosks echo to the sound
Of traffic speeding on a pot-holed road

The world is out of shape, and I, misshaped,
Look out towards The Orme; its swollen bulk
Bullies hotels scattered bleakly below:
Winter has come; it has no place to go.

In the bus-shelter someone grimly smokes,
Under signs that state it is forbidden:
This weak rebellion fails to make a break
In the pervading smell of hopelessness

Yet in the shops beneath their blinking signs
Which welcome (not forbid) consumers in
To coats of many colours, trees of life,
There are dancing flames of conversation

So much that, at first glance, it truly seems
Here is a harvest of dedication
To spirits of Christmas celebration;
Until one realises that, like these rhymes,

There is no substance in activities:
Only a current switched on by the times,
Simulating love and animation,
Concealing hopelessness with placard names

I stumble on some stairs, walk to the Gents:
Beneath an advert warning Prostate Cancer
Kills, I relieve myself of excess drink,
And wish the season gave me time to think

 

Stainer’s Crucifixion

I saw him strapped to the wings of a plane
Bombing the city of Dresden;
I heard the roaring in his ears,
And the lightness as the load was dropped;
I tasted the fear of that infinite space,
Of the place we call death. No landmarks there.

I felt a wind beating on my face,
As the Lancaster banked, set route for home.
I held the joy-stick in my hand. Its touch was cold.
I smelt a smell of burning oil. My head was aflame.

I wiped my sweating forehead with a sop.
Took a sip of my in-flight flask.
Checked my course with the navigator;
Gave instructions to the rear-gunner.
Looked at my charts. All was fulfilled.

Though I did not register the screams,
Smoke rose in offerings to heaven.
The raid was reported a success.

I had done nothing worthy of blame.

The broken buildings stood like empty tombs.

—About the Author—

Rob Lowe has been influenced by, amongst others, Emily Dickinson, Nazim Hikmet, and Edith Sodergran. He believes poetry changes the hearts of writers and readers alike, and therefore is potentially world changing. He writes for this reason, though also because he must. His work has been published online, in print, and as performance. He is currently reading The Auschwitz Poems, edited by Adam Zych. Of Scots-Canadian heritage, he lives in the UK.