The sun is an orange from the Peloponnese
staining clouds and stuccoed walls,
sailboats tacking out to sea.
Damson shapes chase light from under vines;
shadows grope their way,
thick arabesques of lace furrowed at the frame.
Hills are a smoke-stained fresco flaking,
rooftops shrill as pomegranate seeds.
Poplars are the spears of long-dead warriors
sprouted from a rill of dragon’s teeth.
Rising from that faded terracotta dome
come the curling throaty notes
of evening mass below, swelling in
and out of polyphony like a weaver’s skilful woof
their path the disappearing smoke
dragged from a censer’s golden arc.
Far across this dim intaglio
a white cat pads along a cooling lintel stone.
Only the distant thrum of a scooter
navigating narrow roads.
by Sarah Howe
from A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia
publisher: tall-lighthouse, Luton, 2009