Archive for 2017

A POEM FOR MY DAUGHTER

To have a child, as you know well, is to have

someone always with you – their shadow,

their echo, their breathing – whatever

has happened, whatever may happen.

To have a daughter is to shape the future.

 

When we lived in a Victorian third floor

attic flat, that had been the nursery

and the children’s bedrooms, and the trees,

planted when the house was built, touched the panes,

and you were only a few weeks old

fifty years ago now, I began

a poem with this title — inspired

by Yeat’s poem ‘A Prayer For My Daughter:

‘Once more the wind is howling, and half hid

Under this cradle-hood and coverlid

My child sleeps on’ – when the Black & Tan War

raged, rampaged:  houses shelled and burned.

A first time father in his fifties,

he wished his daughter a modest beauty,

a becoming wit, and a good marriage!

 

It was a gentle, English May, and Wilson

was keeping us out of Vietnam.

I was a young man proud and fearful

of fatherhood – unmastered in either

the grandeur or simplicity of words.

All I could think to wish for you was health.

The poem stalled, was left unfinished, lost.

 

A few days old, your daughter lay in her crib,

in another Victorian house.

Outside the snow continued to fall

in that provincial city, slowing traffic,

drifting in gardens. Across an ocean

one of the worst earthquakes on record

razed the flimsy houses of the poor.

As you entered the room talking – wittily,

kindly, hopefully – she turned her nascent head

in your direction, hearing that sound

she had heard forever.

 

 

 

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AMAZING GRACE

From my desk I can see the Methodist Church

opposite, built during the first quarter

of the last century entirely by subscription,

with its decorative buttresses, Welsh slate roof

and faux Romanesque leaded windows.

If the doors are open and the wind is right

I can hear opening chords on the organ

and ‘How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.’

I watch the congregation age and the hearse

draw up – modest folk, worthily dressed,

not averse to jumble sales and laughter.

When the sky is cloudless and the sun is setting

over Liverpool Bay the rays shine through

one set of windows, the body of the church,

another set and illuminate

me – for half a minute – ‘…but now am found,

was blind, but now I see.’

 

 

 

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AT PEAK’S POND, GUILDFORD CASTLE

The castle was one of the first the Normans built.

Its earthen motte rises some fifty feet

or so above this late Victorian pond –

the keep, with its Romanesque windows,

built from local golden Bargate stone and strips

of knapped flint for decoration, fifty more.

As yet she is innocent of all that –

only what moves, makes noise, can be held, climbed

or eaten: like the lemon drizzle cake

a pair of lovers offers her; like the steps

by the pond she ascends and descends;

its railings; the quack-quacks; a helicopter;

the solar powered fountains, whose comings

and goings she points at excitedly.

And the people, who all, multi-ethnic,

cross-generational, reciprocating or not,

deserving or otherwise, receive

a pristine smile and a disarming wave

from within these ramparts.

 

 

 

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UNPREMEDITATED ART

Hail to thee, blithe spirit!

Bird thou never wert

That from heaven or near it

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

ODE TO A SKYLARK, P.B. Shelley

 

A round, purple balloon with a silver tail

is rising fast above our neighbourhood.

(I hear a distant shout or cry). It soars

in the thermals of this stormy summer’s day.

I watch it rising to five hundred metres,

a thousand, becoming a speck in rain clouds

drifting north – and disappear among

the tumbling grey. It was heliotrope,

a shade a woman might have chosen to mark

some special day.  Did she call out as it

left her hand – and then marvel at its flight

and wonder what she might have seen, if she

had risen with it, of the earth’s curvature,

the shape of its fields, the stack of its cities,

the sunset silver of its rivers,

its dark oceans’ colour?

 

 

 

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1967

While Che Guevara was shot in Bolivia,

Siegfried Sassoon died in his bed,

the US bombed Hanoi,

Biafra declared independence,

Israel gained the Golan Heights,

a heart was transplanted in Cape Town,

the Beatles sang ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’,

the Supremes ‘Love is here and now you’re gone’,

the Cartwrights roamed the Ponderosa,

the Cookie Monster ‘Sesame Street’,

‘The Prisoner’ confounded,

‘Jackanory’ revolved,

‘The Naked Ape’ sold,

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ appalled,

the Abortion Act was passed,

Spurs won the Cup,

the National Front was formed,

the pound was devalued,

there was you.

 

 

 

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