Archive for March, 2011

AT GAYTON SANDS

Dee Estuary, Gayton ©SCES 2009



The sands now are out in the estuary

beyond a multitude of reeds and a

labyrinth of runnels, nearer Wales than

England. We walk along the old sandstone

seawall, side by side, looking up as we talk

towards that startling, empty horizon

– midway between Point of Air and Hilbre.

What confidence in the future to build

a sea defence as far as the next parish!

We make way for joggers and dog walkers:

at Cottage Lane, return to a built

horizon – Flint Castle on the distant shore,

Connah’s Quay power station where the river

narrows and Parkgate’s white houses straight ahead.

Always uplifting, always familiar,

never dull, neither shadow nor substance,

this is our fiftieth year strolling this

seaside resort deserted by the sea.

Will there still be a Nicholls’ ice cream each

before we head for home and a tub

of Mealor’s potted shrimps to share for tea?

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SUMMERS OF VIOLENCE

He came in winter, buzzing by the stove.

She fed him crumbs and butter. She was very

lonely. She liked his talk of summer,

grew perceptive as a fly. But in June,

when she still saw nothing, she squeezed her fist

and heard him scream. “I am the universal

suffering man, a sacrifice in

an empty room, reduced to a shadow

on a public wall, tearing my way

to the top in the bathhouse.” She called him

Gabriel. The night she was born bombs blitzed seeds

in her brain,  a wild garden that flowered

in summers of violence.

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SOUTHGATE, JOHANNESBURG, NOVEMBER 2002

At dawn, a white jogger ran along a side road

beyond the budget hotel’s high, spiked railings.

So the neighbourhood was safe. But for whom?

Later, beneath the barbed wire topped wall

of the dentist’s opposite – a notice warned

of armed response – half a dozen or so black men gathered

in ones and twos. Some had crude boards announcing

their crafts:  brick layer, gardener. Sometimes a pick-up stopped.

The men moved forward. There was talk with the baas.

Sometimes one of them got in the back.

I could not imagine such

determination.

On the corner itself, entrepreneurs set up impromptu stalls:

fruit and vegetables stacked symmetrically;

a hairdresser; a couple of guys changing car

exhausts; a man in rags selling a toilet seat.

All would have walked, I learned, carrying their gear,

daily up the road from Soweto, miles over the brow.

 

 

 

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MY UNCLE TOM

With the six o’clock news on Thursdays,

Uncle Tom, smelling of sweat and sawdust, brought

the Dandy – and the Beano! Unlooked-for,

like a lodger, in the bare, spared room over

the hall of brasses and ‘Off Valpariso’,

bachelor Tom had no more substance

than Lord Snooty or Desperate Dan.

He had been gassed twice and died of bronchitis

the year the King died of cancer. I lost

his chisels, which he honed but never used,

one by one in the garden. I cannot

shape my memories into life. His tools

rust in a stranger’s earth.

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REVELATIONS

Marooned for three years, Ben Gunn was

‘sore for Christian diet’. He dreamt of cheese,

toasted mostly.

Doctor Livesey always had about him

a piece of Parmesan in a snuffbox.

When he heard about the dreams, he said,

‘Well, that’s for Ben Gunn!’

But we never find out if the ‘half mad maroon’ savours

the King of Cheeses.

Maybe he eats it and thinks of Cheddar.

I was walking up the Farnham Road in Slough.

I passed an off-licence run by Sikhs,

a general store selling Halal meat

and a Caribbean take-away.

In front of me, a youth  was walking.

From a pocket in his blouson,

he took a banana.

He meticulously peeled, gently ate it.

The empty peel hung from his left hand.

We walked.

When would he drop it, cast it to the gutter, fling it at me?

He stopped –

and placed the peel in a bin provided by the Borough.


On the end wall of the erstwhile refectory

of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie

– which is merely a stone’s throw

from where a mob of  Milanese women

mutilated Mussolini

and hung the corpse from a lamp post –

hangs Da Vinci’s ‘The Last  Supper’.

One day, a woman from Woodside, Queens,

asked the guide three timely questions:

‘These are Jewish men, right?’

‘This is the Passover, yes?’

‘So, where is the matzos?’

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