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I went to a beautiful country wedding this weekend where I met some wonderful people with mixed heritage and it reminded me of this poem. I wrote it as part of a collection of poems based on interviews with local women, however this one reflects some of my own experiences growing up with parents from Genova.

The poem uses two voices, the voice in italics is the speaker’s present environment as she walks along the river Colne, and the other parts represent her memories of Genova as they are triggered by her surroundings. ‘Mental travel’ is a common device found in Psychogeography and it was used by Winfried Georg Sebald in The Rings of Saturn. The poem is long and thin to visually represent the river.

I was fortunate enough to read this poem at Poetry Wivenhoe with the kind help of Judith Wolton who read the voice in italics.


Fragments of Genova on the Colne River Path


Purposeful footsteps 

on the coarse path

towards Arlesford Creek.


Once a year we would go to Italy

where people I didn’t know kissed me.


Stopping to stroke 

green tipped branches.


I listened quietly in fragrant kitchens

while stories unfolded like spring leaves –


The great aunt with a husband

and a lover,

she lived with them both.


The great uncle who ruled

the Cinque Terre,

our blood is blue.


The great grandmother

with 24 children,

her sailor filled the house with silver.


The great flag of St George –

a British bribe

to ward off pirates.


Scanning the high tide

at the widest point of the river.


In strange beds we counted

the pauses between

lighthouse flashes.


We visited the family tomb,

crowned in our surname

surrounded by angels.


People go there on honeymoon

and feel nothing.