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THE ROPE SWING

i.m. Liz Stafford

 

In the crematorium I try to sit,

if I can, where I can see the lawn

sloping up towards the landscaped copse,

and, today, blue sky. I assume the dead,

even if you could, would not begrudge

this longing to be elsewhere, to be free.

 

You have prepared for your death: choosing

the readings, and the hymns any pragmatic

atheist might know, briefing the eulogist

with selected work and leisure anecdotes.

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AT LOGGERHEADS

The Afon Alun rises from hidden springs

on the peaty Llandegla moors, and courses

through ruined mill races to this valley

of ash woodland and wych elm, hazel, oak,

of vast limestone cliffs, of redundant lead mines –

a place named for a dispute between two landlords.

Here the river waltzes, tripping over stones,

and its tawny shallows ripple and gurgle.

 

***

 

My mother and her two sisters, often

at loggerheads, rhapsodized about this place.

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AUBADE

I raise the blind of the small dormer window.

A night of rain has filled the cast iron gutter.

A jackdaw is perched on the rim sipping.

Suddenly the bird lifts off to join

a clattering of jackdaws mobbing

a buzzard. We are two hundred feet

above the littoral – once under sea

but now mostly pastoral land,

the fields a dull gold in the autumn dawn.

The shore is a mile away – but opening

the window brings the waves’

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FEARLESS ARIAS

In the gardens of the Premier’s palace

with its white Baroque facade there are

children’s swings and a red roundabout.

The linden trees the old Archduke planted

though leafless are evergreen with outbursts,

festoons of mistletoe, their berries

opalescent in the gentle wintry light.

A dozen or so mistle thrushes graze

amongst the leaf mould and peck in the branches –

but one, perched at the top of a tree, sings

its trilling, boundless, woodwind airs as if all

of the provinces were quiet and listening.

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A BIT LATE TO THINK OF KAFKA

His new apartment was in a converted

eighteenth century farmhouse stranded

in a nineteenth century coastal town that,

as is the way of things by the accident

of geography, had become a prosperous port

and then declined. The back way in was along

a sloping path through an unkempt garden

then down narrow steep slate steps – slippery

that day with leaf mould. In the twilight,

two Waitrose bags-for-life in each hand,

he slipped, falling neatly on his  backpack.

However,

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ACCADEMIA BRIDGE

Although elsewhere they must compete with tall men

from Senegal selling faux Gucchi bags

and middle aged Roma women hunched like

supplicants as they beg with their cardboard cups,

short, slight Bangladeshi men of all ages

have cornered the market, on the always

crowded bridge, with selfie sticks, lovers’ locks

that illegally litter the rails, and a cache

of small umbrellas for wet, cruising tourists.

 

South is the church of La Salute with its

whorls, bell towers,

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