Transparent Words - Poetry


5 poems by Lesley Burt






breakfast radio forecasts sunshine.

Fathers abandon DIY, load the car,

leave the city,

head for the south coast

where they hammer a sequence

of windbreak stakes into sand

on three sides of piled towels and baggage;

double-check stability and line.



mothers grease everyone’s shoulders

with sickly-scented cream from orange bottles,

then recline -- facing the sea --

behind dark glasses and OK Magazine

until it is time to dole out sandwiches.

Children dig, squeal, demand

ice cream and drip rivulets

down gritty elbows and bellies.


At midmorning

the beach is a colony

of diverse immigrants:

baggy shorts cling to wet thighs

beneath droopy paunches;

Lycra clutches taut buttocks;

red breasts balloon over, or nestle inside, bikinis.


The settlers

watch their neighbours

but speak to none; unless

the blue-and-yellow striped boundaries

require repair; or are breached

by a disorderly football or toddler.




Keep in Touch


Having disordered rows of loungers to shun

shade cast by matching umbrellas, holiday-

makers watch one another from behind their

sunglasses. Heads move on the Mediterranean,

apparently disembodied. Lumpy ladies stroll

and smooth babes strut the sand. A German

with sun-blocked lips sprawls while his woman

occasionally leans across, with a twinkle of well-

browned breasts, to stroke his porcine belly hair.

He remains oblivious of all but his state-of-the-art

mobile phone which is perched - dressed left -

on his trunks. It fails to ring. He must therefore

reach for it often, check its display, see it in his palm

and, reassured, caress it with forefinger and thumb.




Pheasant in March


Guns are silent until October.

He is safe to strut the fallow field,

green-coiffed, red-faced,

decked out in chestnut, bronze

and black brocade.


Mid-morning sunshine

burnishes silky plumage

on the verdant coverlet.

He is dressed to be noticed, admired;

the hen bird - close by.


He fluffs his feathers

to exaggerate his presence;

minces round her

with one wing lowered

as if to embrace her.



Macho now,

he flaps both wings, dances,

hoping she will respond.

She consents, crouches; he mounts.

Seconds later, she wanders away

while he pecks among the grass,





The Beach at Sanur, Bali


I watch Mount Agung become wrapped in mist  

all the way from base to crater till it disappears;

meanwhile men holding painted umbrellas stand

thigh-deep to fish in placid lagoon.


Surfers ride across the reef.

Beyond them a white sail advertises Bintang beer.


Women in green and gold place offerings for gods  -

rice and fruit on banana leaves - at the shore.

Patrolling traders tout fake Rolex, bottled water, cigarettes,

along the ranks of greased and reddened Europeans.

Wind-chime melodies of gamelan waft to my ears.

Bats hidden in palm trees occasionally squeak.


I am in shade. So are several cages woven like lobster pots,

wicker so imprisoned cockerels can scratch earth.

Nyoman and Wayan moor a glass-bottom-boat.

They come to check their roosters’ wellbeing; open locks.


The cockerels inch forward.

The men restrain them, caress silky plumage;

loosen hold for a moment.


Each bird thrusts a neck; a leg; prepares to charge;

then glares at the other, frustrated by renewed grip.

I breathe again and retrieve my book from the sand





December Morning


Navy-blue sky cups

morning star beside crescent

moon: ice-and-a-slice.


Bathroom windows frame

Impressionist portraits: blurred

nudes in yellow light.


Where bare branches scrape,

crimson blisters bubble, streak

across dawn’s pale face.


Tyres emboss snakeskin

trails as they slither from home

on frosted tarmac.


A flock of seagulls

scatters overhead, shaken

from pillows of cloud.



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