Feared throughout the land,
they dwell in distant fastnesses,
converse in arcane argot.
They delve into your secrets.
Your business is their business.
GOLD
is on their minds,
but they take any negotiable currency.
Don’t think if youv’e been blighted by a visit
that henceforth you’re safe;
strong men (and women) quail at their Return.

From Salford to Middlesborough,
Swansea to Southend,
Her Majesty’s Officers of Revenue & Customs
prepare for another day.

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                             2005

  

with tongue in cheek, and apologies to my friends in HMRC.  Nothing personal.  Honest

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There’s a lot of coming and going
up the steps and in the door
They don’t hang about
Get their gear and then they’re gone
down the stairs
They bang the gate

There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing,
regulars and a few unfamiliar faces
Not a constant stream, but, regular
Half a dozen every hour, during working hours
– I am trying to help
– I can’t place every one

There’s a lot of shouting late at night,
banging and banging on the door to be let in
And in the morning, raised voices
shouting until one voice drowns out the rest
– I’ve done the best I can but, no,
– I don’t want to give my name

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                                    2005

 

 Oh, I do like to get on with the neighbours.

The coffee’s brewed. Up pops the toast.
I take a jar of honey and unscrew the lid:
At once a rush of images arise,
Of thyme and rosemary and rigani,
Of bleached blue-painted hives and murmuring cicadas;
Long afternoons in village cafenions,
tasting preserves of cherries and walnuts
(flavoured with honey); priests
in dusty robes, drinking raki, playing tavli
(they always win); seaside tavernas
from where you swim in water’s warm caress
until a colder current turns you back
to white sand beaches made of tiny shells.

There are pebbles on my windowsill,
Salt-dusted by the sea of Crete.

I close the jar. I spread the toast.
I breakfast on the terrace;
while all the pigeons in the world
are huddled on my rooftop, shuffling,
fluffing wings as if they too remember
a warmer than this pale November sun.
Poor beasts, long unevolved
since before Darwin documented them.
And who would call them flying rats?
Well, I, for one. Poor winter things.

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                  2004

Impotent in summer we watch the weeds burgeon,
sitting in the garden with a gin and tonic.
The ice cream van, its jingle monophonic,
trundles close
avenue
and crescent.
The chime of Greensleeves nearly drowns a distant rumble.
– Is that the 15:40 from Gravesend?
“Where are my royalties?” grumbles Henry VIII

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                                         2004

Under a gibbous moon I lie
Desolate: scanning the night sky
For a message

They came in summer,
Footprinting my beaches,
Bursting through thickets,
Picnicking amid the dunes, scattering wrappers;
Their laughter rang in my valleys;
Leaving with the first squall of autumn

I didn’t belong in a chain hotel room
With cable TV, minibar and trouser press
And a man pressing his unsuitable suit;
I said: I won’t be long

Winter tides bring washed up wrack,
Shells, laver and a mermaid’s purse;
Sand-ground glass and faded wrappers
The leavings of summer joy

Under the waning moon I lie
Searching the sky for a message:
Come home

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                                         2003

The mayonnaise has split
The steaks are tough
Sunburnt rumps,
A carbonnade of buff
Sand sticks to suncream –
Welcome to the English Riviera

A fly buzzes
Over the rise and fall of comfy waistbands.
After fifty biological washes,
Lycra gives up the struggle.
After fifty summers
Everything’s headed south.
The bleaching afternoon wears on;
The tide’s gone out.
Awake, the beached wail
For a drink, anything cold
— and who had the car keys?

There’s no more beer
Summer’s here
— Sing, cuckoo

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                           2003

I resist instruction
Usually
Resent unsolicited advice
Prefer to reach resolution
Myself
Rather than be imposed upon

But

Rain the night before had muddied the paths
Feet sinking into soft earth
I tripped on a root and you caught my arm
Paths wind and double back

Deeper in I demurred,
But you said:
You can take your shoes off

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                            2003

I bought a jar of All Purpose Cream
It said: ALL PURPOSE CREAM
It said: ALL purpose

So

I smoothed it into my face
breasts and shoulders
Elbows, buttocks and knees

And then

I polished the floor and the table top
And the car
And I cleaned the bath and the sink
And the cutlery

I whipped it into peaks
And into coffee
And served it with scones and strawberry jam

It tasted funny

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                        2003

It’s all on the blackboard:
You can read?
To start: Coquilles St Jacques; delicate
Naked but for butter, curled in their curvy surround
(Best avoid the religious element here)
Or oysters; delectable, shrivelling under lemons,
Dying as we chew them, releasing heavenly juices
Down our throats. Or of course there’s
Mussels. Green-lipped? I think not.

Then the entreé: nothing too heavy for me.
Did you know the French for diet was régime?

And then (and only then) dessert.
Go ahead, state your fancy; I favour
Sipping on sweet syllabubs.

Do you really want coffee?

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                            2003

This morning
The reception’s frosty
Tempers snap
There’s a crackle of static
Our past shredded, we try to talk
But something went.  Pop.
Now all that’s left
Are Cheerios

 

Suzanne de Freitas                                2003