Dr Greta Sykes – Portofino

Dr Greta Sykes LE Poetry & Writing October 2017

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A poem by Dr Greta Sykes

Poet, writer and artist Greta Sykes has published her work in many anthologies. She is a member of London Voices Poetry Group and also produces art work for them. Her new volume of poetry called ‘The Shipping News and Other Poems’ came out in August 2016. The German translation of her book ‘Under charred skies’ has now been published in Germany under the title ‘Unter verbranntem Himmel’ by Eulenspiegel Verlag. She is the chair of the Socialist History Society and has organised joint poetry events for them at the Poetry Café. She is a trained child psychologist and has taught at the Institute of Education, London University, where she is now an associate researcher. Her Particular focus is now on women’s emancipation and antiquity.

Twitter: @g4gaia.      Facebook.com/greta.sykes.      German Wikipedia: Greta Sykes.


St. Peter Port, Guernsey,
The night of the blinding fog
And the endless grey rain
Of Noah’s flood.
They sipped their tea
With rounded backs in ‘Portofino’,
The café on the beach.
Guernsey, in the cold night. She had the idea.
Her dream, she wanted her café to be called
‘Portofino’, a fantasy maybe, but to her
It was what made her stay and work for it,
Until it became real. The ‘Portofino’.
Had she been there? To Italy? No, but she had
Thoughts and pictures on her mind,
They needed no journey.

In the brilliance of the morning she saw
Venus’ birth out of a shell,
Promising love and justice on earth.
She saw redemption, the Samaritan sharing his coat.
She saw giving and kindness in
The heat of the day like vanilla,
The azure sun in the sky,
The red wine in the glass and carefree laughter
An embrace at sunset, intoxication like cinnamon
On the tongue, lovers diving into
The midnight sea.
She heard the songs of poets,
the joyful music created in a Venetian orphanage.
She saw no bankers or lawyers,
Just poets, artists and peasants
Who knew how to care for the fertile land,
And mothers who wanted their children to learn
About growing up in Portofino, my children too,
She thought.

Portofino, Liguria,
A small place on earth,
Fifty tall, slender houses in ochre and vermillion
Crowded tightly into the narrow rock face
Rising above the harbour of boats,
The fishes waiting in shoals patiently, almost tame
For the after dinner feast.
There is light and shadow, where the cypress,
Olive and chestnut woods
Ascend in a gentle tangle,
Holding the built up cove so close,
So intimate, like an embrace.
Culture becoming nature.
When you study the rock, you gaze back in time,
An ancient beach of millions of years ago,
Compressed under the sea
That now holds this town in a fractal geometry,
Trees welded into its face like angels’ runes.

Yes, ‘Portofino’, she thought, and
Saved her money each week, each month,
To buy the small shop to have a café, the small dream on her mind
Becoming a deed.

© Dr Greta Sykes