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Archive for November, 2009

ACCIDENTS

A sudden heavy shower of summer rain

slows the early evening motorway

to a blood red blur of brake lights.

In my mirror, I see two cars collide,

career across the lanes – and others stop,

receding out of sight into the downpour…

 

I am thirteen and a half and tall for my age –

the year of Hungary and Suez;

am sitting on the red leather back seat

of an almost straight-from-the-showroom

Morris Minor (in the inexorable green),

having dined at Heathrow’s new, five star

restaurant and sampled hors d’oeuvre

and tasted Riesling for the first time;

am being driven back to Golder’s Green

by Yvette, the car’s owner, a fashion designer

and childhood friend of the other passenger,

Angela, my aunt, a night club pianist,

briefly home from Johannesburg –

both daughters of Tzarist refugees,

both light years from the Pale,

bleached blondes, smoking Sobranie

Black Russian in ivory cigarette holders;

am listening to these nubile women,

our daughter’s age now, talk acidly

of their exes, wearily of their dads

when a four door car, overtaking,

somewhere on the Great West Road,

comes seemingly too close and Yvette

swerves sharply right, her bumper

striking its fender with a metallic thump…

 

Fifty and more years later I forget

the dénouement. Certainly, no one died.

I think of you, somewhere perhaps without rain,

watching the sun set, perhaps wondering where I am,

why I am late, while I drive homewards.

 

Note: this piece has been subsequently published in ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks’ – http://www.armadillocentral.com/general/a-jar-of-sticklebacks-by-david-selzer.

 

 

 

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LOVE, AGAIN

Above me, on the slates, pigeons are cooing –

and some already billing, though winter

has many weeks to run. Like a shadow play,

sunlight silhouettes them on the wall

the study window faces. From the desk,

I have looked up, over three decades,

to tease, from bricks, reluctant words of love.

 

Before the allotments were sold off,

by the railway, there were pigeon lofts.

At dawn, out of a livid sky, birds

would home with only guessed at effort, like

the best of words: would touch down in the

empty, wooden rooms, now beating

with feathers, now cooing.

 

 

 

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THE WRECK OF THE ROTHESAY CASTLE

A dirty night in the Menai Straits…

a paddle steamer on a sudden sandbank –

pounding itself, pounding itself, pounding…

seas silencing the hullabaloo.

 

For the last time, the lifeboat pulls for the shore.

Two lovers, roped to the mast, drown their joy.

 

All turned to chalk on the dark sea bed.

Far, far above was the muffled cry

of gulls, the cormorant’s swift shadow.

 

 

 

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THE POKER

An upper room, somewhere

in Cambridge, England, 1943.

 

Outside, a rainy night, the Kardomah closed,

long queues at the Alhambra

for Max Miller, the Cheeky Chappie.

 

 

 max-miller-3

 

 

Inside, a roaring fire and a pride of philosophers.

 

Wittgenstein:           The world is everything.

 

ludwig-wiittgenstein

 

 

Russell:                     Man is not a solitary animal.

 

 bertrand-russell

 

Popper:                    History has no meaning.

 

karl-popper-1

 

Zeleznik:                  The world is a fiction of memories.

 

 

untitled                                

 

 

Did Wittgenstein pick up the poker

to emphasise a point?

Or silence Popper?

Did Popper mention the poker

to point a moral paradox?

Or mock Wittgenstein?

Did Russell call one an ‘upstart’,

the other ‘erudite’?

Or admonish them both?

Did Zeleznik arrive with Wittgenstein,

agree with Popper,

and leave with Russell?

Or was he at The Alhambra?

 

Next morning, the skivvy, who had

certainly been at the music hall, removed

the ashes and re-set the fire. The poker

she moved from wherever it was to

wherever she judged it should be –

and chuckled.

 

Woman:                   Is this Cockfosters?

Max:                         No, madam, Miller’s the name!

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BESTIARY

Ram, The Aberdeen Bestiary

Ram, The Aberdeen Bestiary

 

                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               i

 

A swan, standing, preening itself obliviously

in the nearside lane of the overpass,

diverts the chance commuters into

storytellers for the day.

 

                               ii

 

One morning, perched on a bird table, a kestrel

was tearing a head.

A pheasant, late in the afternoon, whirred from the terrace

and over the privet.

Earthbound, a hedgehog tripped the security light and waited.

 

                              iii

 

In one late September week, I saw three foxes:

one crossing the car park at Sainbury’s in sunset,

its lean head scanning;

another approaching the motorway across meadowland, loping

securely in wilderness;

the third, dead, and laid, like any dog or cat,

on the trimmed verge.

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