Archive for August, 2013


Suddenly, two orange delta kites

with multi-coloured tails, rise above

the families on the beach – looping the loop,

separately, together, flying

in parallel, swooping, soaring, the air

thrumming like a drum roll against the fabric –

flown faultlessly by an elderly man

with glasses, tee-shirt, shorts, dark socks, trainers

and a baseball cap. A woman, distracting

an infant, points to the skies – otherwise

no one else seems to have seen something amazing:

a grandma fetches ice creams; a youth

in lycra is texting; a small girl in pink

continues her digging.




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Early one sunlit summer evening,

on the patio next to the urn,

a brown rat appears, not, as usual,

scurrying in briefest light from dark place

to darker place, but stationary,

as if paralysed, right jaw bleeding, torn.

Then it staggers fitfully a step.


We wonder what to do. Take a stick,

like Philip Larkin to the rabbit

traumatised with mxyomatosis?


The neighbour’s fat tabby cat – that saunters

through our garden like a colonial –

arrives. It jousts with the dying rat,

a tenth of its size, like a stuffed toy.


Next time we look, the rat is on its back

in rigour mortis. A fly buzzes.

What had maimed it? The bourgeois cat would flinch.

Was it dropped from a height by a novice

among the suburb’s small flock of buzzards?


We postpone action till the morning, hoping

some predator would remove the corpse.

As the poet opined to the rabbit,

‘You may have thought things would come right again

If only you could keep quite still and wait.’


Next day, the rat’s still there. We bury it.




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I can see here the curvature and compass

of the world. From the embankment that

separates the enclosed, salt-water Marina –

crowded today with summer holiday

novice canoeists – from the Dee Estuary,

I can see, east, a hundred metres away,

The Promenade; south – beyond the dinghies

moored midstream, their halyards tinkling

in the steady breeze – the white cooling towers

and the cable-stayed bridge at Connah’s Quay;

west, Flintshire’s industrial shore rising

steeply into the green Clwydian Hills,

where a fire has begun in the gorse

and the bracken on Holywell Common;

north west, Hilbre, island of erstwhile

pilgrimage then commerce; north – beneath

the horizon where ships wait for high tide

to cross the Liverpool Bar – West Kirby’s beach,

stretching into a mile of sand flats that ends

where the distant waves break ashen and silent.




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The Arctic, after many a summer,

is melting and our magnolia

flowers twice. In more unenlightened times,

a lone frog, even a Common Frog,

appearing at the small water feature

enclosed by ornamental grasses

and bamboo – in a garden frogless

for all the decades we have tended it –

would have been runed with ill omens.


We have butterflies – a number of Peacocks,

some Large Tortoiseshells, an occasional

Comma – but cannot recall the last

caterpillar. We bought a pocket book

of butterflies for our granddaughter.

She chose it. We had seen a Purple Hairstreak

at Wisley, fluttering above the Gunnera

Manicata, the uneatable

‘Giant Rhubarb’ from the deforested

mountains of Brazil. She leafs through the pages.


How old will she by the time it becomes

a book of remembrance?




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In the balmy, barmy days before conservation,

our local zoo had an Indian elephant

which gave rides, complete with howdah

and mahout. He had been recruited

from Kerala and he and has family

settled, as Commonwealth citizens,

in a small, suburban semi within sound

of imitation jungles and savannahs.


In time, the circus animals deserted

or were abandoned, and, as the

euphemism has it, ‘he lost his job’,

becoming a porter at the train station

(when there were such posts) –

‘Jaldi, jaldi, haathi!’ was replaced by

‘Porter, porter, sir?’ I recall him

dour in his British Rail uniform –

and, appropriately moustached,

grinning astride the elephant’s neck.




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