Catalpa flowers cover

The Tivoli Hotel

Along whose old verandah

I sometimes used to play.


Gatun and Miraflores,

Balboa and Colon -

Hispanic names I knew

When I was just on seven.


By day the seething streets

Of naked children startled:

A church whose silver altar

Flowed like a waterfall.


At night the white victoria

Would take us to the sea,

And there the moonlight faltered

Across the ruin of Spain.


The English pirates plundered

That gold-decked city, left

Each church and palace levelled.

Cinders and calcined stone.


A palm tree, where the Viceroy’s

Great galleon was moored,

Shadowed Pacific currents

Plated with silver still.


And in the conquering silence,

The Philippines, Peru,

Our heroes hooves struck off

Cruzadoes and doubloons.


My mother’s amber glowed,

My father’s gold-lace shone,

My prince’s tunic caught

In mica flecks the moon.


A present from my parents,

That Panamanian coat

Was meant to make me happy

Who had been ill too long.


I have it in the chest

My father’s sailors made,

Stowed away like memories

Of the Spanish Main.


Confetti should be there,

Bringing back the carnival

In which I flung bright streamers

From that old hotel.


Such happiness is lasting,

Entwined with moonlit names -

Gatun and Miraflores,

Balboa and Colon.