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For Steve Crewe


A journalist friend of mine in Jakarta

sends me articles online, which, in turn,

I share on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter,

making me seem, after Francis Bacon –

who was purported to have read every

book ever written – the most erudite man

in Europe: an article, for example,

explaining that Plato was right when he claimed

the world is made of cubes, or another

about cougars in Yellowstone Park

occasionally dying from the plague.



The ditches along Duttons Lane have been full

much of March – because February-fill-dyke

was mostly dry, almost Spring for days.

The glinting water is dark as black tea,

brown as bitter beer. Along Acres Lane

the hawthorn hedgerows are beginning to green.


We park as near the school as we can.

The leafy lane is overflowing with song.

As we walk through the security gates

to join the others waiting – a social mix,

and mainly white –



Where the primary school and the houses end

are hawthorn hedges and occasional oaks

on either side of the lane. From the school gates

the leafless trees are an arching, tangled

fretwork – closer each twig is proud, discrete,

vital, sentient. A sudden gust of wind,

or a lightning blow, in one oak tree’s

early growth snapped off a branch, and left an arm

with a claw like a beak. Shut behind the gates

the gradground children have no chance at all

to imagine the stub of a branch a bird,



The English education system is made

to inculcate compliance – through failure –

with the nation’s stereotyping.

It remains still a work in progress.

For nearly seventy years most learners,

unless they passed an exam at eleven,

would stay in the same council school from four

to twelve, then thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.

When I was seven I attended one

of the last such schools, at the end of our road.

There were two entrances with GIRLS & INFANTS

and BOYS carved in the sandstone lintels,



for Elise Oliver


If, when I grow even older than I am

now and were, perhaps, too old to make poems,

I would become a sower of wildflowers.


Each year, I would begin with the Narrows,

an ancient path where our street ends –

where children are walked to school, commuters

walk to work, and revellers sway home

caterwauling. Each spring and summer

in the unkempt verges there would be the sight

and scent of Bird’s-foot Trefoil,