Archive for June, 2009

PARISH CHURCH, BURFORD

Hear them, silent on the leads,

watching their comrades,

the ensign, the corporal and the private

shot by firing squad

amongst the elms in the graveyard below.

Under the leaves in the summer,

Cromwell’s New Model Army

was practising democracy,

selecting all ranks for exemplary death –

the only leveller.

 

 

 

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WE PRISONERS

A lark starting from the heather; a lamb

amazed by a heron; a hare gutted

at a turn in the road; the familiar path

obscured by fern, bramble, convolvulus:

the gallery in my head is open

all hours – by turns, thriving and derelict.

The sparrow in my chest, where my heart lay,

now flings itself at broken panes, now stills.

At the end of the pier, where steamships docked,

black-headed gulls and anglers watch and wait.

The steel-faced laughing man will read our stars.

Under the planking, the jelly fish glide.

My heart is a fist clenched in darkness,

a sea-anemone in coral waters.

 

 

 

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LOST

Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire

Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire

 

After the fluorescent shops and the snatched music,

the side street was damp and dark –

but a bag of chips and a manipulative adult

made the emptiness freedom.

 

Waterways were trawled and the usual,

time-dishonoured suspects questioned.

Down river, high tides returned her nine year old body.

 

The funeral cortège was a carriage and horses

and the local press was effulgent.

But gossip condemned her single mother,

living in a hostel on benefit.

 

The killer lived two floors down,

an estranged father of daughters –

a violent drunk, unemployed, unschooled.

 

Victim, mother and murderer

threaten the equivocal city.

Losers and losing

challenge its achievements.

 

Death is only one result of murder.

Remember sweet Fanny Adams – mutilated,

immortalised, profaned  unthinkingly!

 

The murder and rape of children

seem beyond words, understanding,  iniquity

– and another’s lack of love or the  means to love

is out of our  grasp, lost beyond finding.

 

 

 

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CHILDREN’S HOUR

About teatime, when the coals were glowing

liquid orange and cream, strands of soot

would catch on the fireback,

flickering like torches in a forest.

And behind the wireless’ fretwork facade

the valves were alight with Uncles and Aunties,

soothing, articulate, evocative and refined,

bringing us safely to the Weather and the News.

We listened to the same wonders, you and I,

tuned the static and the soot to pre-pubescent stories,

sensing there was something else

beyond the sideboard.

What if we could have been told –

by a clairvoyant Romany perhaps? –

that, out in the ether,

there was someone we would want to love forever.

 

 

 

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EZRA POUND IN VENICE

‘But the worst mistake I made was that stupid suburban prejudice of anti-semitism.’ Ezra Pound

 

Sitting in a traghetto, Olga Rudge

from Ohio and Ezra Pound from

Idaho – together fifty years,

from concert violinist to poet’s helpmate,

poet maker to fascist propagandist,

he, typically, with stick, wide brimmed hat,

floppy collar, she, wearing woollen gloves,

left hand clutching a large, canvas bag, right hand

a carefully folded scarf, dressed, like any

elderly woman, for a chilly day –

look away separately into the distance.

Five years before Pound’s death, Allen Ginsberg,

from New Jersey, on a sort of Grand Tour,

kissed him on the cheek and forgave him,

on behalf of the Jews, for his ‘mistake’.

‘Do you accept my blessing?’ asked Allen.

‘I do’, said Ezra. What closure! What chutzpah!

Held in a cage in Pisa, lit day and night,

jeered at as a traitor and a coward

by GIs who had battled from the south,

he wrote: ‘What thou lovest well remains,

the rest is dross’.

 

 

 

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