Greta Sykes




The Shipping News I

         from Freedom and Flagstones

Night fell on Faeroes, when the shipping news

Were read, the views

Of local people most confused:

northerly wintry showers give way to

sunny spells, warm summer breezes,

mainly good.

Hebrides children ran out to play, when

Mainly west north westerly showers,

Fog patches followed by snow

Soft air flowed, temperatures rose

And rose, to 35 degrees.

Lovers on Lundy beach felt full of glee.

The Irish Sea had warmed and lay

In soft and shimmering sunshine, the violent storms

A distant memory.

Finisterre’s green palms were no more stirred

by violent storms

Much later a yellow fog did not arrive,

It stayed just mainly good,

At German Bight the sandcastles stood bright

Against the sky,

Occasional violent storms did not materialise.

Yellow beach baskets, with fabric of red and white stripes,

sometimes blue and white, shone in the crystal air,

Seagulls shrieks grated

And tourists watched blankly

Eating cake.


The Shipping News II


Fisher, German Bight,

Warning of gales,

South-westerly, veering 7 to 8,

Not good,

Occasional rain,

Not moderate,

the children on the beach,


their parents gaze at stormy clouds,

they gather their belongings,

mournfully and wearily.

Beach baskets made of willow,

tiny safe havens

stand nostalgically

in the blasting sands that

sweep across the low tide distance,

the horizon seemingly a darkened brushstroke.

Seagulls tumble in Humber,

A small old woman is clutching

Her husbands cold, arthritic hand.

In the Thames valley,

Showers add millimeters to the leaden river,

a cyclone threat of 9 to 10 has been

Decreasing slowly.

Men and women

Walk to work

Pushing tiny, useless umbrellas into the storm,

The office windows

Metaphors for refuge.

In Shannon, rain or showers,

An easterly wind, turning 6 to 7,

sharp as knives.

A shop assistant peering out and up,

saying a prayer,

closing the shutters briskly.

Surreptitiously, she changed the sign from ’open’ to

‘closed for lunch, back soon’.


The Shipping News III


Faeroes, winds are veering East,

Northerly, backing fertile climate,

3 to 4, good, very good,

Viking, storms subsiding, 3 to 4, mainly fair

Sun rising from the east,

New crimson dawn in sight.

Forties, Cromarty, occasional gale,

Decreasing, 8 to 4, awareness rising,

Moderate to excellent.

Hebrides, westerly, to very westerly,

Turning bad, 8 to 11, becoming dismal,

Further west, stock markets crashing, SOS.

Rockall, Malin, westerly, backing southwesterly,

4 or 5, but could be getting worse to 7 or 8, occasional rain leading to

storms, tsunami forecast in the west, far west,

dow jones down 6000 points, estate agents uprooted.

Shannon, westerly, a driving rain,

Continuous storm at 10 to 12, tornado,

Trees uprooted, cars demolished,

CO2 has rocketed, Swiss Re is bust.

Fisher, German Bight, south easterly, mainly bright,

Fair to very fair, 2 to 3, the sun rose in the east

Upon the order of the people it agreed to set there too,

The night was calm and balmy.

Fastnet, north westerly, moving west,

Showers, 6 to 7, low visibility, thick fog,

Free market up for sale, price dropped, no buyers.

Finisterre, west westerly storms

Rolling, the pentagon for sale,

Owners evacuated to another planet.

in other peoples lives.


The Lonesome Fisherman

The lull of the evening,
After the bell tolled
For prayer
In the stillness
Bird song happened
Like embroidered stitches
On silky fabric,
Stretched over dusk.

Winged chalky gulls floated
Like glistening soap bubbles
Into the tall sky.
Pink, mauve, canary
Coloured nightfall
Drifted across
The transparent sea.
A lonesome fisherman
Unfolded his net
Into the depth
And waited –
A silhouette on the horizon.
I waited with him,
I was catching
in my imaginary net
The lull moment of the evening.

A song to Loess

In the ‘little Brockhaus’ encyclopaedia
On the page with Lorca and Lorelei
Stands the word loess,
The yellowish fine beads of silicate,
lime and clay.

It lies here in Berlin, in Hamburg,
The north German plane,
Deeply anchored into the warm earth
In vertical walls of geology
For aeons of time,
Sifted and shifted into the fabric
Of the earth’s mantle
Since ice ages reigned,
Blown by the freezing winds.

For so many years I have wandered
On the grounded, thin and rich
yellow sands made of loess
From the icy age of the planet,
It has become loess in my heart.

Sand of Loess in my childhood shoes,
Sand on my wanderer’s clothes
After a night of love
On the beach by the shore,
Sand of Loess in my pockets, discovered
Years later, a trace of memory
Like a wound of tears in my eyes.

Sand of memories,
Sand of things remembered,
Things understood,
Sand of my soul, my belonging.

A Little Peace

To eat ice-cream,
To sit in the park and watch fellow humans,
To have time
To see,
To hear,
To smell.
Simple pleasures of peace,
So unattainable,
So cheap,
But so unreachable
For the many,
The hungry, the exploited,
The resigned,
Those that are ravaged by wars,
That are inspired
By the makers of weapons
And fuelled by greed and the lust for power.

So we stand,
Armed to our eye brows,
Humans against humans,
Bristling with armour
Like medieval warriors
Ready for battle:

To defend our millionaires!
Buy more weapons,
We have to defend
The free market economy.
To arms, to arms!
Is the call from the multinationals,
Our profits are at stake, our markets
Are disappearing,
Our freedom to exploit.

Quick, more weapons,
Another little war in foreign lands,
We must defend our freedom
To unemployment, our freedom
To want what we don’t need.

The simple pleasures of peace,
So cheap,
So unattainable.

Velvet Revolution

The ugly painful wall in cut Berlin
A flood barrier, high tides
Of capital awaiting.

In this autumn the people
Of the East gave up resisting
The lure of capitalist goods.

So many a committee meeting
In a still room under the bust of
Lenin, Marx, looking on wistfully, disturbing,
Wise, yet suddenly
The flood began,
The workers came and quietly cut exit
After exit into the unforgiving
Wall and climbed it, screaming
With joy, you could not but feel with them,
their suffering, denials, their separation we
did not know.

A torrent of colourful humans flooded,
Eyes glazed with pleasure,
No soldiers stopped them now,
the people on the wall and over embraced
each other from both sides of Berlin,
they laughed
and cried,
they did not know
how ruthless capital
will rule the world ok.