Peter Riley

12 poems

The towns along the Tisa

O the towns along the Tisa, the flaking walls, the ragged squares, Habsburg halls and communist concrete eroding in the river wind / border towns stuck with closed borders, broken bridges over the Tisa, holes in the roads, buffalo carts ignoring the traffic lights / A shepherd with staff and cloak stands outside the Hotel Tisa, gypsies in orange skirts and wide-brimmed black hats cluster on corners / People wandering the streets hoping to pick up some work or leaning against walls on market day holding in front of their midriffs the one object they've got for sale, a model house or a packet of tea / The last offices in the west, heated by small woodstoves, desks heaped with impractical directives, as the first bits of snow descend and everything gets dark together.