Archive for February, 2011

UN DIMANCHE APRES-MIDI À L’ÎLE DE LA GRANDE JATTE

'A Sunday afternoon on La Grande Jatte', Georges Seurat, 1884



The trombonist will blow unnoticed. Much is absurd:

a monkey, women in bustles, the brass player.

The bourgeoisie reflects in post-prandial

tranquillity… Purges, coronations in Paris,

the metropolis of revolution, where Haussman’s

boulevards were an imperial stockade…

For two sous, the ferry transports Georges Seurat

across the Seine to the Ile de La Grande Jatte. Two years’

preparation, observation of colour, shape,

application of theory delineate an

historical moment, which never occurred.


In shade, a man with a clay pipe reclines, so self-

absorbed he breathes – like the infantry officers

striding this way. The vistas of shadows, sunlight,

water – each coruscating perspective – catch

the city’s portentous murmur… On the Champ de Mars,

Dreyfus is humiliated – in the Place de Grève,

Marie Antoinette… Northward, Prussian howitzers

position. From the Vélodrome d’ Hiver, the Jews

are leaving for Birkenau. Against the high wall

of Pêre Lachaise, the remnant of the Communards

is shot. The citizens are culled in this city

of bloody principle and virtuous

mayhem – thousands in La Semaine Sanglante…

He was of his epoch: diligent, self-

regarding, a scion of the bourgeoisie –

mistress and son secreted in Montmartre.

He conjugated art with science, measured

the golden mean by the chemistry of colour.

He died young of a weakened heart and was buried

in Pêre Lachaise. Light records nothing. Only words

describe past as history. Lozenges of paint

are ignorant of irony, are the colour

of time. One late and sunlit afternoon, a child

follows a butterfly into oblivion.

 

 

 

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THE SWELLIES, AFON MENAI, ST VALENTINE’S DAY

Lovers are as mariners, navigators

in crowded, intricate sea lanes of

momentary loathing and lasting passion.

Pilots guided vessels into the straits:

from the north, between Trwyn-du’s dark rocks

and the wicked sands of Dutchman Bank;

from the south, between Abermenai

and Fort Belan over the Caernavon Bar;

and then through The Swellies – Pwll Ceris,

‘Pool of Love’ – where the surging high tides whirl

round Ynys Gored Goch, the wild waves

tawny and their foam white as drifting snow.

Lovers are as sailors in insane storms

and intimate calms, ever watchful

for icebergs and mutinies, heading always

to the Hesperides, course set forever

westwards into the sun.

 

 

 

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THE MEMORIES OF SLAVES

On Overton Hill, an obelisk

in local sandstone marks the parish war dead.

Fresh graffiti partly obscure Worrall,

Egerton, Massey – names of Cheshire gentry,

villages, labourers. There is a solace

in landscapes, remorseless historians.

Below the hill, the town becomes a toy.

To the horizon, are laid out the pricey,

strategic illusions: refineries

distilling forests and the wide, poisoned

river narrowing to an ashen,

urban haze of broken streets, redundant wharves,

the memories of slaves.

 

 

 

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POETIC JUSTICE

A wishful thinking editor re-spelt

my name with a T and changed a poem’s

final words from ‘a tramp woman nurses

an infant/under a tumbling sky’ to

‘under a trembling sky’. Humbling to find

an editor’s chance(?) choice of epithet

happier than mine own! Mine was truer.

One winter night, I was changing trains at Crewe

and a red faced fellow traveller

sang, “…not her beauty alone. ‘Twas the truth

in her eye made me love the Rose of Tralee”.

His pale wife shivered by their cardboard case.

His breath condensed like the whitest of roses.

 

 

 

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DINAS BRÂN, LLANGOLLEN

'Castell Dinas Bran', Richard Wilson, circa 1771



The path zigzags upwards to the keep, like

smoke or a hare hounded. Magpies lowfly

the gorse, bank to a clump of pine, barks pink

as coral. Ravens wheel. Birds and the wind

disdain the ruins peasants carted, raised,

razed and thieved. Before allegiances, walls

was this hill, that vast, limestone precipice

and, everywhere, silent, ancient waters.

Whoever sees the turf worn with walkers’

traffic and earth’s crust shining, whoever

looks across the vanished sea to the cliff’s

myriad catacombs will imagine the hoe

snick in the furrow, the clangour of arms

and the chough’s triumphant croak.

Defenders,  tousled on the battlements,

watched fields sown, leaves fall, expected Saxons.

Foes were covert. A viaduct terminates

the valley and trim, mechanical

dynasties converge on the smoky plain.

The journey from Powys to the Five Towns

was all of sixteen leagues, as ravens fly,

a thousand years and such optimism.

 

 

 

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