What I can remember are taxis and a long walk by the docks
smell of oil and tar and fish-stalls by the mosque –
where were you, daughter, who crept out in photographs?
Those white buildings, white as blind eyes, and the casbah
with its deceit of lanes and entrances; and a donkey
for no reason still as held breath in the middle of the street
Where were you in all of this, can you remember for me?
I needed cheap wine and pills to keep me buoyant
someone to read the street-maps, take care of us both
Invisible to myself, was I invisible to you? Dust and blue sea,
afternoons heavy and viscous as poured concrete –
rank wine in the teeth and a tongue burnt by black tobacco
Postcards that told lies, I wrote them in the old French rooms
needing witnesses, the post-box became a confessional –
we’re as out of touch now as then, images with their colours bled
Out, we may as well not have existed. Algiers did that
and the other places, exotic or plain,
I doubt we trailed a decent shadow through all that light.
Fred Johnston was born in Belfast and lives in Galway, where he founded the Western Writ-ers’ Centre. His most recent collection of poems is Alligator Days (Revival Press).
This article appears in the 11 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The anti-Trump