PoetryIssue 21 | October 2014

Two poems by Jane Kirwan


They had stopped for the night in Athens, were going home
or heading north for what was home at the moment.
They drove into Macedonia – regular yellow fields –
Customs was quicker than last time.
Four hours in a traffic queue among the wooded slopes
before Montenegro; a low wall separating them
from the drop to the valley. She thought she could live there.
He said it was smoother than the mountain road,
pot holes, fake border, men with Kalashnikovs.
They paid all the tolls with credit cards,
they were hungry. The hotel was on the motorway near Skopije.
It had balustrades and porticoes, an empty car-park,
a dining room more like a ballroom, an acre
of empty tables, two dead sparrows near the cash desk.
A waiter appeared. He straightened a hundred chairs,
deeply unhappy in his nylon jacket, then said
nothing was available. Schnitzel.
In the distance near the sign to the Jacuzzi,
four middle-aged men drank beer with chasers.
Before crossing into Hungary they searched
for a place to sleep, Serbian villages were shuttered, silent.
The young men ahead, waiting for a room, had guns
in their jacket pockets. It was nearly midnight, no cars,
no one on the streets in the towns.
They talked of a detour to see the wild horses,
skipped Budapest. They had rented a Fabia, would go
through the night. She marvelled at the neatness of Austria.
As they crossed the Czech border at Znojmo, fields
gave way to casinos strung for miles,
night-clubs flashed orange, purple, puce.
They stopped for petrol and coffee. It was 4 am.
Two girls waited near the tyre-pressure gauge, another
in stilettos lounged by the pumps.
The road was empty, the car and lorry-parks full.
She examined the number plates, European –
mainly Czech and Austrian. At regular intervals,
on both sides of the road, ten-metre-high inflated women
with legs spread wide swayed slightly in the warm night air.
The smell of diesel and burgers. All neon-enhanced
and available. They were heading for Jihlava
but never found it, juggernauts avoiding motorway taxes stormed
through the dead villages. She said Jihlava sounded like Jehova
and that just like a passport and cash,
she now had a backpack of rage and if only
the boot was full of thunderbolts,
she’d drive back to that border, zap the lot.

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About the author

Jane Kirwan was born into an Irish family in England, started travelling as a baby, escaped to work in Nigeria, got stuck in London but dragged the poor child all over the world; once the daughter was eighteen she said: I’m off a life in the Czech Republic, without to be honest much thought except desire for a builder. In love with Irish rain and French trains, Jane’s favourite time away has been travelling alone through India. Read or visit her online.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok