It was the Isle of Heracles to Greeks.
The Romans named it after mackerel,
an isle topped by a temple, close to land,
edged by a Roman garum factory.
These days it’s pretty much unreachable,
a natural reserve, gulls and rare plants
live cheek by jowl with moderner industry.
The mainland coast nearby took on its name.
A church that now has no parishioners
bears witness that the place once had a life
beyond the factories and industry.
Fishers lived there, caught tuna with their nets.
The village went. Almost no trace is left.
The groves of orange trees were all cut down.
A model town for workers took its place,
Poblado Repsol. This in time went too.
Even the army quit this area.
Their forts lie crumbling on the hills around.
Now, Escombreras really has it all…
From miles away it’s like a nursery.
Meccano pylons reach to touch the sky
beside a clutch of spheres like ping pong balls –
refineries, explosives, acid plants,
a power station, fertilisers too…
a forest of crackling pylons in the midst,
oil tankers piping fuel in the port.
Goods trains with cylinders of God knows what
move swiftly down the tracks.
Fiona Pitt-Kethley has published books of prose or poetry with Chatto & Windus, Abacus, Salt and others. She is also a freelance journalist and copywriter and has written for The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Telegraph, and London Review of Books and other publications. She lives with her family in Spain, in Cartagena on the edges of the Sierra Minera. One of her hobbies is collecting minerals and visiting old mines in this area.