Archive for May, 2012

JUBILEE

‘Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound…and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.’ Leviticus 25:9 & 25.10

 

Much of the chapters and footnotes of England’s,

though not Britain’s, history are scribed here

in stone and iron – Roman Walls, Norman weir,

marshalling yards – the rest is on paper,

of course, and from hearsay. It is said,

for example, for Victoria’s Jubilee,

in our street, lilac trees were planted.

Some have survived changes of taste or neglect.

 

This city, where I have lived most of my life

by chance then choosing, is shaped by the Dee,

that brought wine and the Black Death from Acquitaine,

powered the long defunct tobacco mills and still

draws occasional salmon from the oceans.

I imagine them waiting in the deep currents,

fattening on sand eels, squid, shrimp, herring,

and then the long, fasting haul from west

of Ireland, homing for their breeding grounds.

A cormorant perches on the salmon steps.

The last of the fishermen is long dead.

 

Like the calls and wings of Black-headed Gulls,

blown by April storms, the names and titles

of princes echo from the neutral sky

and sound through the deferential streets.

No doubt, there will be the splendid nonsense –

the cathedral’s ring of  bells will peel

and the Lord God Almighty will be urged

repeatedly to ‘save the Queen’. So,

let the ram’s horn blow like a trumpet

through Mammon’s and God’s obsequious temples –

and ‘…proclaim liberty throughout all the land…’

 

Almost which ever road you take westward,

in the distance, are the Welsh hills. The Legions

exiled the Celts from here – Saxons et al,

with legal threats and occasional killings,

kept them out except for trade and prayer

but forbade their songs. Now, waiting, we

are everywhere. Let the ram’s horn sound.

 

 

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‘EAST END GIRL DANCING THE LAMBETH WALK’: BILL BRANDT

'East End Girl, Dancing The Lambeth Walk' Photo by Bill Brandt

 

He’s set it up, of course. Or, rather, framed it.

There’d be no feigning this young woman’s delight

in being ‘free and easy’ and doing

‘as you darn well pleasy’. She’s got her best blouse on,

with shoulder puffs, her sister’s shoes, which fit her now,

black ankle socks and shoulder length, unpermed hair

freshly washed – and waved, probably with Kirby grips.

Doin’ the walk, she lifts the hem of her skirt,

revealing her slip – and smiles coquettishly.

Beside her is a line, a queue almost of

female acolytes. (The only boy looks away).

They’re pre-pubescent, excited, nervous at what they see:

grown up clothes, shapely legs, unimaginable bust,

a sensuousness that, unwilled, will be theirs.

Down the street of terraced houses, symmetrical

as barracks, a woman strides, her back turned

on this miracle: a girl who knows

she will never grow old – ‘Any ev’ning,

any day…Doin’ the Lambeth Walk.’ Oi!

 

 

 

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VIRTUTIS FORTUNA COMES

Stepping Stones, Kettlewell © Sylvia Selzer 2007

 

Lasting longer than the Thirty Years War,

than half our biblical shelf life, this marriage

has grown like coral – drops of the slain

Medusa’s blood – become, like Corallium

Nobile, a charm against fits, poison,

sorcery, whirlwind, lightning, fire, shipwreck!

From Norway’s fjords to the Cape Verde isles,

the Niger’s delta to the Orinoco’s,

reefs build, decline: the slow massing of

defunct algae, discarded oyster shells, lost

sailors’ bones; the unmarked ebb and flow

of topless towers, clayey tenements.

So, let’s celebrate chance, charity, courage –

Fortune’s inexorable comrades.

 

 

 

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TRIGGER AT THE ADELPHI, LIVERPOOL, MARCH, 1954

For Alex Cox

 

This is the year Dien Bien Phu falls,

Algeria rises, segregation is

ruled illegal in the USA,

the first kidney is transplanted and UK

wartime food rationing finally ends.

 

Lime Street was filled with thousands of boys and girls,

gathered to greet the singing, celluloid,

Born Again cowpoke, Roy Rogers (erstwhile

Leonard Slye), and his entourage – combining

a promo tour with a Billy Graham

crusade. The youngsters, pinched with cold on that

blitzed and windy street, clutched their copies

of the Roy Rogers Cowboy Annual.

Those with seafaring dads – and there were ships

filling the Mersey then and its docks –

had something from the Sears catalogue

of Roy Rogers Gifts: boots, guitar, holster,

ersatz buckskin fringed shirt. (Roy and his wife, Dale,

had been mobbed in London, fringes ripped from

the genuine article). But Roy and Dale

were in bed with ‘flu in their Adelphi suite –

so Trigger trotted the route alone,

climbed the hotel steps, made his mark at

reception, entered the residents’ lounge,

visited his master’s bedroom and appeared

at a first floor window for a photo op.

 

But was it Trigger or, his double,

Little Trigger? And which rears on its hind legs

stuffed in the Roy Rogers Museum,

Branson, Missouri, the ‘Show Me’ state’?

Or is either or both with Roy and Dale –

and Bullet, the dog, of course – alive, well and

moseying along on the moon’s dark side?

 

 

 

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ON THE NATURE OF THINGS

From the terrace at Polesden Lacey, it was

the guttural calls caught our attention –

then sheep flowing fast over rising ground

like a pale yellow banner in the wind,

then the shepherd himself, then his dogs

flattening themselves at his command.

By the time we reached the valley bottom,

the beasts were penned – lambs from ewes,

the latter funnelled for the shearers.

The bleating drowned the whirring of the clippers.

 

From the high bridge over the Tweed at Kelso,

we watched a fisherman upstream cast

from a skiff – his companion skulling gently

to keep steady in the current – when,

suddenly, between us and the men,

who, of course, were facing the wrong way,

two salmon leapt from the river six feet

or more and, turning,  re-entered the depths

silently. Oblivious, on those costly

waters, the ghillie rowed, his master fished.

 

 

 

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