A Poem: “Minorca” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

I first went to Menorca in the fall of 1967 having just finished a tour as an APCD in Ethiopia. I was looking for a place to live while working on my novel. In my last months in-country I combed the back pages of advertisements in the old International Herald Tribune looking for a place to rent, and it was Mark Foster (Ethiopia 1965-67), reading over my shoulder one day, who spotted an ad for an apartment in Mahon, Menorca, that was renting for $1 a day.

“I’ve been to this island with my mother,” Mark said. “We sailed over from Mallorca. No Americans ever go there.”

That was just what I wanted to hear!

I left Africa in early September and spent the fall of that year on the island. I have been returning to Menorca ever since. Here’s why.






From the red tile terrace
of the Port Mahón Hotel
I watch the sun touch Spain.
The harbor water is prickly white
a painting by Matisse.
Boats glide against the tide
and disappear in dawn.
Menorca, mucky with heat, wakes
to the roar of Vespinos, and
English tourists breakfasting.
I walk to town in the shade
of whitewashed walls.
At the Plaça Reial I order café
con leche, a sugary Ensaimada,
and read yesterday’s news.
The English follow, crowding
the cobblestones, crowding
me to the sea.
In Playa de Son Bou,
under a thatched roof
I drink another cerveza and
closely watch topless Germans.
I swim to sea, float
beneath an empty sky.
It is August in the Balearics.
But I am safe from Vespinos,
tourists, and yesterday’s news.
Time has stopped at Barcelona.






Leave a comment
  • By now, I suspect it has an airport….? On my way back home from Turkey in 67 another RPCV from my group in Turkey and I flew over to Mallorca from Barcelona…. a common thread. the only time I ever tried to watch a bull fight – appalling! From what I remember, it was a lovely place, a bit warm in July for our liking so we ventured back to Barcelona and headed north, eventually to home. I’ve always wanted to go back!….. can one return? Apparently you do. But then, You’re J.C.P.!

    Delightful poem!!


    • Yes, they have a ‘new’ airport, built the year after I first arrived.
      I flew in on a DC 3. I also took (another time) an overnight boat. Now you can go from Barcelona in about three or fours hours.

      However, the island remains the same.

  • This is groovy, John. You can just write be good in addition to publishing, teaching, and leading the charge to telling our history.

  • I just went on a sun-splashed holiday in my mind. I love that you posted this. Yesterday’s news has never been so inviting. But what I really loved, is how the “sun touched Spain.” We need more beauty like this in our lives these days. Thank you, John, it’s a lovely poem.

  • I like poems that with this kind of immediate and vivid imagery John.

    How about some Ethiopia impressions from then and now.

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