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PAINTING PARADISE

If I were a painter – and I would have

so many memorable titles – I would paint

your garden in all its rooms and seasons:

across the high back wall spring’s coral pink

clematis; summer’s sword-leaved, red-flamed

crocosmia by the aquamarine

gazebo; the white, weathered table and chairs

and the acer on the dark-brick terrace;

plants inherited, self-seeded, handed on

in stewardship – a world compendium.

You are the architect, builder, labourer –

and only begetter: ‘Sylvia Among

Her Sonnets Without Words’

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ORGANISED CRIMES

I watched the TV parade of affluent

(and mostly public school) chancers, liars,

fantasists, hypocrites, law-breakers

vie to top each other’s warmed-up clichés

and self-serving platitudes. The social

and economic future dystopia most

seemed to desire would, they assured us,

bring out the British best in all of us,

just like the Blitz. I thought of bomb-razed

building lots in major cities still empty,

and a tale a cabby told me years ago,

taxiing me from the railway station.

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ALL THIS IS BUT A DREAM

For Barbara and John Huddart

 

On this calm summer evening the North Sea falls

unheard on the wide sands below the castle

in whose inner ward the play is set – and we

(an eclectic collection of friends)

have brought folding chairs, prosecco, pop,

and fish suppers from Seahouses nearby

along this coast of raiders and saints.

 ‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea,

My love as deep; the more I give to thee,

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ACROSS THE ESTUARY

The beds of varicoloured reeds, fields almost,

stretch north and south along this bank for miles,

and westwards, nearly to Wales, across the wide,

silted river. Unseen marsh creatures scarcely

disturb the grasses. Egrets and herons

fly in and out of hidden lagoons.

Before silt, from here, the Dublin packet sailed –

with G.F. Handel and Jonathan Swift.

On the opposite shore are the ruins

of Flint Castle where Richard was dethroned –

‘…night-owls shriek where mounting larks should sing.’

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OUT OF THE EARTH

The park’s diagonal avenue of limes

is in leaf. A warm southwesterly

billows through the foliage like falling surf,

like the tumultuous rushing of flames.

I watch you walk away under the trees,

and disappear into the green shade.

 

On the path directly opposite,

across an uncluttered expanse of grass,

you reappear some moments later,

undeterred by a surge of carefree cyclists

taking short cuts, or self-absorbed dog walkers.

You vanish beyond the wind-swept tennis courts.

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SAME OLD, SAME OLD

Impelled by Wall Street and the Pentagon,

and the vanity of Presidents,

the astronauts had seemed to sail beyond

experience – but we TV millions watched

live ‘Old Glory’ stiffen above us;

heard Nixon speak; saw Aldrin at attention.

Meanwhile, oblivious, the Vietcong

were waiting patiently in their tunnels.

 

***

 

The day of the moon landing we walked up

Bidston Hill to the Observatory,

where my great grandfather – who had captained

coffin ships to Boston –

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