Archive for August, 2009

4th AUGUST 1944

Anne Frank

The canal dapples the office ceiling.

Upstairs, the fugitives are still as dust.

A siren unpeoples the city.

Into the waiting sky, with the raucous gulls

and the chestnut, her words like breathing…Her life

has turned, beyond all her desires, so

brutally to art…They packed and waited:

beyond, a locked compartment to themselves

and telephone wires curvetting by –

then countrysides of shuddering, noisome wagons.

She died alone. Her father made her grief,

her love public as Europe: spoke her words

into the empty sky.

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A NEIGHBOURHOOD OF STRANGERS

Buzzards splayed their wingtips against the sun.

A Phantom entered the glacial valley,

its fuselage burning – the pilot

and crewman still at the controls, their choice made.

In school, it was story time – magical

oak woods, changelings secreted. The children

heard a rushing like oceans. Their teacher

saw the fire approach and two young men,

with a hundred years of technology,

burst upon the huddled village’s

common land…Children dreamt of foreign men

gone to dust in a golden fire for a

neighbourhood of strangers.

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FIRST DATE

Walking behind you – your chignon, your tanned

forearms, your calves, your white, pleated skirt

swaying,  just the suggestion of that

bottom – into a sunlit pub on

Wenlock Edge for gin and orange and a pint;

 

watching Macbeth through inexorable

drizzle in a Shropshire market town –

‘It will be rain tonight’. ‘Let it come down’;

 

drying off in another pub, hearing

someone recite Housman loudly:

‘When smoke stood up from Ludlow…;’

 

driving home, your sleeping head on my shoulder,

your future already in my hands – nearly

two generations ago.

 

 

 

 

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LA PIETÀ

St Peter's Square, Bernini's colonnades, The Basilica 1910

St Peter's Square, Bernini's colonnades, The Basilica 1910

Bernini’s colonnades lead to the centre

of the known world – of hewn porphyry,

of granite kept in its place, of usury.

Irony turns each illuminated page,

celebrates the dissemination

of the word, funds the seeding of Europe

beyond oceans, in jungle, across pampas,

over sierra.  Only the clash of

vultures and the seas’ predictable tides

can erase carrion from argent sands.

How light the Saviour is! The Virgin seems

to hold him with such ambivalent ease:

a supplicant offering a sacrifice,

a rescuer carrying a corpse.

Michelangelo's Pieta, St Peter's Basilica

Michelangelo's Pietà, St Peter's Basilica

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THE HEART’S TESTIMONY

I am a gumshoe tailing mortality,

a shammus staking out history,

death’s sleuth. The past has bequeathed itself,

its deceiving legacy of meanings.

Here is the evidence, thronging the cramped,

provincial streets – the line of a wall,

family remembrance, an ancient name.

Before terraces and villas, before

canal and railway, under pavements

and metalled roads, beneath fields is lost heathland,

a forsaken brook. There are only stones

and ghosts and the heart’s testimony – childhood,

ambition, emptiness.

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