Archive for May, 2016

A PUBLIC MAN

i.m. David Robinson

 

At the celebration of his life –

in an erstwhile garrison church now

educational centre – there was music,

applause, laughter, sadness, his cardboard coffin

with red roses and his panama hat.

And it was as if he were there – as he was,

for sure, in the gathered memories

of the many present and the many,

in absentia, who had written.

The order of service commanded

‘All Sing The Red Flag’, and printed the words –

and most did, not just the comrades like us

who savoured and relished his serious joke.

 

Gathered outside in the soft May light,

greeting friends and colleagues then watching

as the cortège took its gradual leave, we

found ourselves applauding in that public place.

 

There are some you cannot believe are dead.

You would be unsurprised if they turned up

one day and continued a conversation

they had begun a week before, a decade.

So as I walk the Millennium Greenway –

part of the old Cheshire Lines railway

recycled (pun intended) – I can imagine

his cycling towards me, stopping, listening,

laughing richly at ironies then tell me,

with charm and gravitas, what I need to know.

 

 

 

Note: The poem was originally published in May 2015.

 

 

 

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

The American swing in its oak shelter

with a living roof sprouting carved tusks or

dragons teeth is very RHS Wisley.

My five year old grand daughter has just

ridden on it and is now pushing it

for the pleasure of others until a tall,

lithe boy of twelve or thirteen arrives

and begins to punt it slowly at first

then faster and higher but always

with care. She joins him, holding the ropes,

urging the swing, and leads the ecstatic

laughter of all the children gripping

the bench as it launches to the sky

and returns to earth, again and again.

Suddenly, I think of Holden Caulfield,

lost, gentle, loving, and his ‘goddam choice’

for what he would wish to be – catching

children in the fields of rye before they fall

out of reach, out of sight, over and over.

 

 

 

Note: An American swing comprises a PE or old fashioned school bench (without the feet) that is hung from ropes or chains and that moves like a saw or a pendulum from side to side – rather than to and fro like the conventional single seat swing. Like the Indian swing, which moves to and fro, the American swing will accommodate more than one person. At the time of posting, this one has been removed. In Surrey, where Wisley is situated, there are, it appears,  risk averse literati.

 

 

 

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INNER MARSH FARM HIDE, BURTON MERE WETLANDS

We have made the longish walk from the car park

on the decking through the marsh marigolds.

Before us is a teeming shallow lagoon.

Beyond are mixed woods, pastoral farmland

and a white house on the ridge of what was

the coast of the estuary before

the river silted and the marsh grew.

Behind the hide is a railway embankment –

the thrum of the odd diesel from Neston

to Wrexham and back baffled by the noise

of the cacophonous colony

of black headed gulls nesting on a islet.

Unaided we spotted those – and a shelduck

with its fancy red stripe and two shovellers

with their iridescent heads but are helped

with avocet, black tailed godwits and ruff.

 

We are the OCD species. Each member

of this ‘parlement of foules’ has at least

two names and a full biography

in many languages. How self-absorbed

they are! A solitary, silent coot

seems oblivious of the flock of gulls.

 

Here are serious folk with serious gear –

some of it camouflaged – who speak in subdued

encyclopaedic tones: strangers, kindly

in this companionable wooden hut –

which is a testament to human

vision, diligence and engineering –

unafraid to talk to strangers in this

always now fearful, riven land with its

taxonomies of hate.

 

 

 

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SOWETO 2010

The old road that passes Orlando West’s

Donaldson Community Hall – where the young

Mandiba taught boxing – was becoming

a highway with verges for the World Cup.

On the central reservation, a man

in rags was selling plastic toilet seats

and a woman was herding three cows.

On a side road, in front of the Hall’s gates,

there had been a shop with a sponsored sign –

‘Burkino Faso Tuck Shop – Coca Cola.’

The business now was shuttered – the sign pristine.

A boy in the many striped blazer

of a private school in Jozi passed homewards.

 

 

 

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ALMOST ABOVE THE TREES

We were in the canopy among the owls

amid limes and sycamores at the top

of a three storey Victorian semi.

Ours was the children’s floor and the nannies’.

We furnished, decorated, carpeted.

We had our books, our prints, our piano –

and our child quickening in your belly.

I would feel it kick. Our neighbour one floor down

ran off with an actress. His little boy

rattled his play pen all day. In the winter,

mould grew in the bathroom, the gas boiler

shed bits of metal, ships on the river

blasted their fog horns. She was born in May.

Her cot was under a skylight. Leaves

stroked the glass, sunlight dappling her loveliness.

 

 

 

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