The White Mandevilla

On the road

a rose bush grows

with blooms big as a babies’ head

it invades the air

with imperial ease.

Rocking on the Phu Quoc river

blue fishing boats.

In the pink massage parlour


the girl with rough hands hates the fat white women

who pay too much and speak too slow

she washes her sore hands

with Lifebuoy soap and pulls

the white hair of her clients just a bit too hard.

In Cua Duong the verdancy is cut

through by a concrete road

bisecting villas from houses

forest from garden.

Walking there

I pin a flower on my breast

fragrant and heady

the scent of soft fecund air

the dark vanilla Madagascan kiss

the tiny green waft of rice paddies

in peace behind the black gates of the villa

where the Mandevillas come out

white on green

like stars.








For Victor


Too late to the beach with the scalding eye

glaring down from its zenith

searing the soles of feet below

we found a fringe of rocks and trees

and under this deep silent shadow

we sat on towels, ate bruised fruit,

our softened baguettes

drank the warming beer

till the glint on a rock called me over.


A plaque set there to someone’s daughter

killed on the beach, falling from her horse, Tilly,

‘doing what she loved best’

a little can set below with two sore and dessicated roses

the tiny ritual enough to set my heart’s clock ticking

I know this sound.


To have then not to have

to receive then to give away

to love deeply but hold lightly

to accept this loss as a kind of gift

for others on such a day in such a place

where children cavort and chortle,

teenagers sulk on towels metres from their mothers

where beautiful bodies smell of coconut and sex

where strangers fill your vase with coastal grass or blooms

under the deep shade of ti-trees

sheltering those for whom the light is way too strong.


Catherine Forsayeth

Phu Quoc 16/03/2017




One o’clock

I was fair once my lovelies.

Skin supple

wind murmured through my hair

shifting like the sighs of suckled babes

over my countenance

I breathed in the light of stars and galaxies

poured my grace into waterfalls

nuanced the mist that rose and wreathed with love

those who loved me then and were still to come.


Two o’clock

I embraced, starlight paled my skin,

life pulsed through the alveoli of trees

coursed in rivers bays and coves winkled with shells

teeming brimming boiling with fish weaving through greetings of weed

I lifted my arms to the arcane vault of the sky

my fingers fringed the horizon

teasing out moisture that misted my grateful mouth

I drank deeply at the pools glittering near my feet.


Three o’clock

In the profound dark of night swinging with thuribles of stars

spilling the light of aeons upon the tawny frogmouth

the wee green treefrog clinging to his pale branch

the ghostly curlicues of mist rising from the lake

trembling with a descant ring of joy intensely thrilling,

haloed in a wreath of light,

I called for union with my beloved

and oh it was here with me that the sons and daughters of heaven

sang the song that laid the cornerstone of life


Four o’clock

Casting thought in a vast arc

incandescent, swinging  high then low

two lights appeared; first sun to mark the day

then moon to mark the night

but more than this the lesser lights

the jokey glowworm happy with his bright bum

its cousin flitting firefly, the clattering click beetle,

and deeply in dark and cold waters

the crazy angler fish lit his reading lamp way

phosphorescent  drifts in oceans

luminescent squid trail like a mermaids hair


Five o’clock

Oh I was fair beloved!

My friends all, great and small teemed and gamboled

played artless games breathless with laughter

all enfolded in coruscating specks of light shivering in their time

in their ecstasy

so that all life knew

I was fair, so fair, beloved.


Six o’clock

On the promontory, with its hard basalt nose sticking out

I called them forth from the shimmering motes,

male and female they were, dove shy, still soft.

The rocks ground their teeth

rumbling subterranean cracks faulted in the mantle

like wayward children put to bed the bedcovers  of hills were ruched in folds

as all the earth moved and complained,

but I loved these two the best

I kissed them on the mouth and fed my words into them

I sang my love into their breasts

their swelling bodies rocked tumescent

and climaxed into knowing the we of I.


Seven o’clock

I saw him mark a rock with shapes and lines

to draw the hunt wherein the great beast was felled that day,

it spilled its blood upon the land fecund, verdant.

I saw woman shamed and into silence go

Hungering for a pelt to cover her lovely form.

Where then the fruit for you, the grain for you, the roots and tubers

vines flowers, the honey sweet for you?

I knelt and put that great head on my lap

swept aside the flies that crawled upon the darkened orbs,

the eyes that saw the pointed spears thrown

the cry so quickly choked by gushing blood

her knees collapsed and the earth received

the fall.


Eight o’clock

They work and build, they teem across the plains.

Numbers formulae plotting the course of stars

They sail, pirates in a caravelle

The great astrolabe of intelligence subjugates all matters

Mountains scaled rivers coursed and oceans crossed

Over everything they dominate and thrive

These children more like bees than hive

I stand and watch their monuments rise

A ziggurat a pyramid a tower marble statues to golden gods

I’m making lists as fast as I can go

Of these, my children’s tickets to eternity, posterity or glory-o.


Nine o’clock

Someone knocks; a hollow echo booms within, not knowing…

a sigh a cry a shout from without , I stay inside

curl in nimbus and cirrus, in the heat the wings of hummingbirds fan me,

it is getting late, still the din grows louder strident

clamouring, the sounds of hammers, the crackle and roar of fire

wailing of babies and groans of old men from outside my door

I go out.


Ten o’clock

From my hill I see them spread below, a multitude incalculable,

black brown yellow white pink, all these babies

reaching blind to things they can never see

I swallow them in to my eyes

peer into them with my mouth

and feel them with my heart,

they are one but legion mired in the diurnal round of fleshly cycles

they heave and struggle, take steel to finish off what gold didn’t take first

from the top of my hill I call out

“Don’t do to someone else what you don’t want done to you!”

I feed them but

like cells the crowd divides,

meiosis untrammeled and a mad malignancy is born.


Eleven o’clock

I’m woken by an immense light for seconds brighter than my soul

The stones cry out,

trees scream in the horror of being ripped from the womb of earth

The juddering teeth of rocks grinds and will not stop

cooked fish flood the land the animals birds flowers

the wee green tree frog

the tawny frogmouth

the doe eyed creatures great and small

The cricket in his dark hole playing his legs

The bison slaughtered in a sticky sickening sea

The hacked and cracked slapped crushed macerated chunks of my children

The ice plains crack, the glaciers slide, they melt, they steam,

the turning of all

From all it was into all it is

The great rape has begun .


 Three minutes to twelve

What to do what to do what to do what to do

I have sent my best, my lions, my horsemen,

the great beast with eyes multifocal

I waved away the great prostitute with my bloodied loin cloth

I walked on the marches

Suffered in the prisons

When you were lashed, spat on and hung, I too,

When the incandescent bombs were strapped on making a red smear

Of you , I was incandescent too.

I have whispered in the dreams of men

Turned them unholy cowards in their sweaty beds

I have trumpeted warnings in your news

As the floods came

As the storms turned their eyes

upon babies whimpering under beds

And giant hands dragged them into towns collapsing in wave after wave

Sweeping them up trees turning them in wire prisons

Rolling them in the depths like crocodile snacks

You shake and wonder murmur what next what now what will happen

I tell you

I tell you

I tell you this

Half from one

Two from four

Four from eight

In an exponential chain

It will not abate

It will not stop

until my face is fair again.


























Europe: gestalt

Europe: gestalt


To the north in the Fundão are the true minds of Portugal,

the ones who live without the stink of cabbage drains and catacombs

of the cattle crush on all the blaring roads

of hyphenated walks on cobblestones

of sardines in stilettos climbing stairs floor after floor

to arrive in a closet called home out of the reach of soil and leaf.


Europe on its kapok bed

Europe the bitch with the open legs


Breathing in (as if its forever)

breathing out (all the earth gasps)

always the sulphur steaming from the pores of her poxy face.


Europe pimpled with churches

Europe lifting her skirts


Now the interred are gone to dust

their blood and bone mingle in the fields

and raft the rivers.

their ashes are the rain on verdant Polish ground.

All the land is fecund, all the fruit is sweet

basted by temperate summers,

the taste is deep with age

and this taste is always on the tongue

or fluttering fragrant kisses on the brows of children

whose faces are the profiles on old coins

turning up on beaches in the New World

it hovers on the brows of mothers

rutted with weeping

hard with desire.


There is no beauty here,

here there is simply an anger

such as that which takes a sickle to a throat

or bonfires books and people in the streets

or dives into the lakes of wine

or drifts in curlicues of hash and grass

(another continental analgesic)

or cracks the skulls of old men.


the old men are selling their fruit

and the fruit falls far from the trees

and the trees poke fingers down down down deep in the soil

and the soil is in the blood and the blood is in the fields of history

and the history floats on the turgid waters of the falling

and the fallen were the young men with the seed

and the seed was the people in the streets

or the ones shot in the forests of Verdun

or Katyn

or  fucked to death in Mostar

or hung in prisons or on gibbets

in this or that village on this or that day for something… for something

for something

that wrinkles the yellowing pages

and clearly states:

Eye for Eye and Slash for Slash.


We are all leveled by it;

by the blood,

by the smell of it

brought down by the gas

broken in the bone

blind in one eye

split  by dissent and opinion

reduced to a comma

ticked in the box

reduced to a dot

we are molecules and neutrons

we are the fine wine of a shitty god pissed out on a land

that is never really ours


but it is theirs and we must have it

we must have the fields of rock

with the skin of dust white brown and black

that now blows over the face of her

in the hair of her

in the eyes and ears of her

in the bronchi of all the returning children

who ever breathed in the reek of the drains of Europe.


Europe picking at hospital sheets

Europe shooting up under a bridge


There are remnants here in Portugal;

two witnesses in the last olive grove

two trees of men who cannot bear fruit

one has a madness and bites his hands late into the night

the other curls, a trembling mote, on his bed

waiting for a halt in hostilities.


Europe winks: a  promise of pleasure

Europe: the  eye with a black meniscus.


Portugal 2007








Ordinary Things

Ordinary Things


Some ordinary things are a salve,

solace to a saddened soul

as celestial footlights over baking northern lands

thoughts lightning strike in flashes

the wind turns on a spindle whirling a prayer wheel to the cool south

a murmuration of thoughts roll and coruscate in a bleak wintry sky.

Oh how I loved you then,

you dived into the cold Atlantic then up

raining salty droplets off your hair, grinning, triumphant

ecstatic after your cold showers

standing straight as an Egyptian in your towel

your fingers the colour of papyrus but no matter.

The first day together on the cliffs of Ericeira

Facing the rosy fall of the sun over the real Finistere,

the holy fragrance of shrubs seeping myrrh into our air.

No-one’s simple beauty shone through as yours

there on that quiet edge of the continent

you took my heart off the plunging steep

slipped it warm into your pocket where it stayed, domesticated.


You, a navigator too, sailed cold oceans,

through squalls, tempests doldrums Into new lands

you plundered my treasures with a careless hand

sailed to other harbours, to the winking tavern lights

some wild tarantella swept you into mad whirling prancing dancing

in steps learned from another girl, then another girl,

another another another

spinning nebulae of lies

skeins of deceit

till from your pocket

my small heart slipped to the floor

under clattering feet and clicking heels

and with a sad slow susurration

stopped beating.


I never knew love until that day

I never knew life until that day,

I, to scoop up that still soft piece

and put it back where it homed and grew big,

in me.

Catherine Forsayeth 16/02/17





Pie Man

Turning a boozy eye

there’s the half smile

the crooked pin eye

the gravy stain on his chin

the onion tears

the smell of damp crotch

the hand more pig trotter than human

holding a bitten pie

that slash of darkness a mouth.

What is that?

What is that?

On the shelf behind you…

a photo of a querulous boy in pants big as a circus tent

holding fairy floss in a stiff wind

a woman, laughing, her dress caught in the up draught

a good day,then…

so stump up pie man

your profile sucks.






We don’t talk of love anymore Ursula

polar bear.jpg


The jet stream howled hot a wavy intemperate gale over the ice cap of the north

The white bears toey grip on small floes ridiculous, tenuous, a snapchap event

They plunge in swim, tire weighed down by sodden fur not buoyed up by skinny ribs

Some make it to a hard and sullen lip of land with a sigh

Some go down then roll diurnally, their eyes milky fixed to the North Star.


Some bears held up placards at the zoo, milled about in ponderous circles

Grunting and coughing in the noxious fumes of perfumed gazers

One sat back huffing, with a beer in his paw, gruffly asked a child for his hat

The days grew hotter and though they complained and asked for fans

The zookeepers looked to their own navels scratched and checked for fleas.


Bears in Alaska refused to fish, made hammocks out of hunter’s skins and scalps

Lay under chemtrailed mackerel bellied skies

Smoked dope drank hootch, mauled their wives and cubs then cried

One had a whiteout and vomited dog food under a dying pine

Then stole a pie from the kitchen of a woman with a shaking gun.


Sloth bears stopped to hum but sang loud ragas to their startled fluff eared mums

Teats unaccustomed to such Carnatic scales shriveled while cubs suckled fussed and crooned

Parents desperate, wrung paws grunting bass notes in empathetic harmony

While a wily fakir claimed it all a gift from Krishna for sitting forty years on his fingernails

Meditating on his winking clinking offering bowl.


St Remedius in his cave in Val di Non levitates and prays

Giving up the world to gain a kingdom of shifting particles and motes

His big companion goes through the saints clothes for food, finding fleas

Puts them in his own fur, an act of penitence for killing the saint’s horse

Before, in the usual bloody order of natural things.


Gogs tease bears away from hives with fat salmon caught in teeming streams

And retire to caves, stung and drunk on honey stolen from the bees

Fires keep the bears away at night, arrows by day

still these slavering roaring beasts sway and tower over men

who have yet to split the atom in a world where beast and hunter pray.


Catherine Forsayeth Nov 30 2016







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