Mary Scheurer – Alcochaete

P Mary Scheurer LE P&W Vol 2 2019

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Poems by Mary Scheurer

Mary Scheurer, originally from Manchester, left the UK in 1975. She lives in France and teaches Philosophy across the border in a Swiss college. She is a member of the Leman Poetry Workshop in Geneva, and has worked for the last ten years with a quartet of European poets who met on an MA course at Manchester Metropolitan University. She read recently with the ‘Quartet’ at the Limerick Poetry Festival. Her writing has been published in The Literary Bohemian, Bare Fiction, The Stony Thursday Book, ‘On the Edge’ (Leman Poets), as well as in the WordAid anthologies ‘Did I Tell You?’ and ‘Not Only the Dark’.


There is nothing here: a broken windmill
dropped shoulders, dangling arms,
sighing complaint across the salt flats
and squinting at the brash blue sky.

Withered trunks, thrashed and blackened
by cruel winds whipping at their remains.
A sprawling white farmhouse, horizon bound,
cowers from sun shimmer, cloud white-out.

There is nothing if not cordgrass, glasswort,
salicornia or thrift, surviving tidal onslaughts
day after day, firm grip tightened, hope intact.
There is nothing here but marsh, yet in the marsh

You may behold, if you are still, a pair of stilts
wading, red-legged, in search of food,
catching eels sometimes. Heron, grey, white
or purple: elegantly feathered, poised.

Or raise your eyes to that dead tree
bearing a buzzard’s weight: the curiosity
of a stork’s nest perched on a pylon,
precarious, electrically alluring.

No, there is nothing here. Nothing over which
the kestrels soar and plummet, in which
pied wagtails twitter, against which osprey, grebe
and egret preen. Volumes only of air and space.

Vineyards at Lavaux

The geometer traces them first – precise
with ruler, compass and set square, his pencil
sharpest graphite. Once perfectly captured
on fine vellum, he lays down the template
over the breasts of those hills; there, where
sun will warm, rain quench. Setting down his tools
there is no more left to do but wait and rest.

Taking up her palette of water colours,
the artist tints the leaves a range of greens,
grapes plumply purple, trunks brownish black.
Laying down her brush, she wipes her brow.
With an aqueous spell, she then transforms
the gnarled supports into dousing rods, to tease
water upwards, sap from root to graft and tendril.

Grape picker for the season, he hoists a basket
over his shoulders in the early morning.
Still clothed in dew, the earth exudes its scent.
Sunlight fingers its way into the ringlets of vine,
already heat threatens. He treads each parallel
signing his presence with a snip and drop of fruit,
runnels of sweat course tokens of his labour.

Unlock the moment’s bouquet, rich and full.
Now: this instant everything, each sense
is sharpened, as they sit to taste this sight,
to listen to the colours of the afternoon,
read every line and angle subtly drawn
within these lengthening shadows. Eyes lock
as glasses touch: awareness present perfect.


– or was it the swell of your hip, sighing
like an extra lung, that woke me … its rise and dip
which coaxed my eyes to open: that slant of sun
on skin, bidding fingers flow, rivers to the sea?

Before the book was finished, its author
had passed on. Before he could live there
his house crumbled. To grasp the ray of sunlight,
pull it, out of the unreachable of slumber.

To write the lips of sleepers – if we dream
we also wake. Shift up to the overworld,
listen to them bristling beyond the shutters,
all those who reach for now. After lungs

or hips or lips have breathed their last, what use
are sounds, softness, my wanton waiting?

Old man, Crete.

Down to the seashore, buckets in hands
our children run ahead to sand and waves.
We follow down the shingle path, glad
to hear their laughter. There he is again

standing at the forefront of his house
bright shirt taut over belly, ripe smile
creasing stubble, hands planted on wide hips,
vivid and solid as a docked fishing-boat.

‘Omorfi kyría’* he calls, thick fingers
lifting to his lips to blow a kiss. ‘Moúmia’*
and his hands lower, but not his gaze.
We both smile back, amused.

‘You have an admirer’ you tease. Indeed.
I blush. Returning, hours later
he is gone, bead curtains drawn.
Just a blue chair, small table.

Next day, we pass again. His wide face
is back at its post, grin and hands beckon
then show a canary in its cage, whistling.
The old man whistles too. Then every day

the same. Friends: old man, canary, us.
We wonder how he passes the time
sleeping, eating, ouzo, his canary; if
there had ever been a wife to serenade.

Decades on, and each morning without fail
you feed the birds before yourself, then watch
as they swoop down to plenty. Coffee steams,
you sit and observe them. Throughout the day

they jab and play. Some peck at feeders
others in the grass. You frown at cats
or chase them off. They land, bustle, flutter
as the sun picks out the white of your hair.

Omorfi kyría – pretty lady
Moúmia – mummy

© Mary Scheurer