Martin Chambers

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The tide of men

You could seek one summer here, or longer,
lured by real estate bargains to spend some time out,
searching for gems under the diamond sharp sky.
Then you might dig at the abandoned gypsum mine,
sifting the tailings, thinking there was more,
or mistake for old workings the limestone hollows
that once housed the abundance of wine,
crushed beneath the feet of ancestors
and cellared for the winter.
But finding none, you’d scrabble along old terraces
where ancient trees gone rootstock wild
tangle themselves into the stone dry ground,
and drop bitter fruit, almonds or small hard olives
worthless crops amid the fallen castles
and forgotten dreams of men,
who come and go, like the  harvest.
And you, latest in this tide of men,
of Moors, of Romans, the Greeks who came before,
for now it is the time of the moneyed classes,
surfers of city prosperity who arrive with big dreams,
or weekend escapes to renovate,
in a town where old houses don’t fall, but provide,
rocks for a new wall, tiles for a roof repair,
homes for the chooks free from foxes.
This town on the edge of broadacres,
where vegetables grow from the memory of rain,
and surviving old men welcome you,
even though they know you are not staying.
This town will take you to the edge of money,
here, for your season.
Then you too will leave not empty hearted.