top of page

Chris Rice: a poem

Brief Encounter

The first night you sat nursing

a sick kitten on my balcony.

The second, you swam naked

off the beach at Montazah.

I marvelled at the ballerina's

vertebrae of broken moons

that rippled in your wake.

The third, to the accompaniment

of Madame Butterfly, sweat

rained from your body as you

straddled me and buckled

like a bird hit by a train.

The fourth, I was upended

by a barrow filled with melons.

You bathed my wounds with

iodine and diplomatic silence

and asked me for a souvenir.

I gave you my torn shirt.

Your head (a rose too heavy

for its stem) upon my shoulder,

I walked you to the station,

whispered I would write. You

frowned and muttered angrily

about "these fucking people

staring". Thinking Brief Encounter,

I waited for a brave-faced wave

but somewhere on the way

from carriage door to first-class

window seat you vanished.

I watched the space you should

have filled, been waving from,

head slowly through a haze

of soot and apricot for Cairo.

Walking home, I stopped

to watch two zebra-sleeved

policemen lift the topknot

of a date palm from the middle

of the road. I thought you

would be easy to forget until

I reached my door and heard

the mewing of a cat: the kitten,

in another life, that you had

nursed to health. I took it

to my balcony, sat it on my lap

and let it silence donkeys,

mosques and music with its purrs.

Chris Rice was a founder member of a London poetry group, The Pembridge Poets, in the mid-1970s with Robert Greacen, Matthew Sweeney and Tim Dooley. In 2011, he started to write poetry again after a twenty-year silence. Since then, his work has been placed or short/longlisted in a number of competitions and has been published widely in magazines and anthologies, including Acumen, The London Magazine, Magma, The Poetry Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and One Hand Clapping. Extracts from a literary memoir (Diary of a Pembridge Poet) can be found online at The London Magazine (October 2019; March 2020; June 2022). A collection of early poems, Call of Nature (Lapwing Publications), appeared in 2013. Both Brief Encounter and Small Blue Thing were first published ten years ago in Envoi (July 2013).

bottom of page