Ian Watson was born in Belfast but has now spent most of his life in Bremen, Northern Germany, where he worked as a senior lecturer in Creative Writing and British and Irish Literature and Cultural History. His recent publications include three German books of poetry and short prose: Kurzpassspiel (Bremen 2012), Spielfelder: eine Fußballmigration (Bremen 2016) and Bremen erlesen (Bremen 2018), as well as two English poetry collections: Riverbank City: A Bremen Canvas (Hamburg 2013) and Granny’s Interpreter (Salmon Poetry 2016).
Slush in January in Berlin.
I pull my wheelie case through grit.
At traffic lights I swing it in a dribbling arc
from pavement to street, street to pavement,
steering it clear of the brown ex-slush
collected in inky puddles.
Heading for the hotel entrance,
I see George Best, alive as you or me.
He walks towards me, with his three-day beard
his kindness and his coal-coloured greatcoat
and the walk that was only his.
He gets to the heavy door before me,
shoves it open, strides through the lobby like
the star he is. So the door swings back and
catches the shoulder not pulling my case.
At the lift he turns and smiles,
the similarity shot through.
No, George, it couldn’t have been you.
Drag and Pull
The sea is a flat and swollen
mirror ruffled only by
the terns at ten o’clock,
for whom the sea is restaurant.
The beach to my right
slides by like a riverbank.
As if on a windswept head,
I stand slanted against the pull.
The water pulls me three ways:
tide and current, give and take, and drag.
Below me, where I hang,
the seabed algae stumble
like a tumbleweed on sand:
Rose of Atlantis, Rose of Jericho.
Beyond my depth, my feet
caress the undertow, I swim
lethargically to keep my place,
not treading water, rather
cupping and tickling it.
I relax and let myself drift
parallel to the slipping beach.
From the moving shore
the children shout Come in.
My time is up.
Return Flight – a terza rima sonnet
While my cold ashes, lightened by
the summer wind, caress the tips of grass
along this flat North German field and try
to lift and slide towards dykes, to underpass
the feeding-frenzy swallows; while loved ones, still
with me on sticky fingertips, caress
the thought of me out there as tipped-out swill,
there’s some who know that I am far
removed from that wet rocky coastal hill
where I’d have wished my green ceramic jar
to have been spilled, so I could paraglide
down to the slate roof of a public bar
and filter through to polished oak and brass
and settle on a pint and Ulster fry.