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