LOOKING FOR PUFFINS: SOUTH STACK REVISITED – POEM FOR OUR DAUGHTER

South Stack, Ynys Môn, ©Sylvia Selzer 2009

 

Of course, by the time it’s my turn at the ’scope

the bugger’s turned its back. ‘It is a puffin,’

reassures the RSPB girl – and,

since she’s pretty and young, I believe

that what I see is not one of the teeming,

noisy, noisome, nesting guillemots,

razorbills or gulls. A hat trick: ageism,

sexism, anthropomorphism – plus

being churlish as a bear rather than

valiant as a lion.

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AT MYCENAE 1984

Behind the lintel of the Lion Gate,

swallows had built their nest. Two Mirage jets,

burning Nato dollars, buzzed the valley.

A sweatstained, overweight American

squatted in the shade of the ashlar ramparts,

fanning himself with a bush hat. “Hey, which

pile of stones is this?” A veteran’s pension

kept him in exile. His mom and dad

had once stood arm-in-arm with that eager,

cropped marine recruit, who was altogether now

someone else. Thanksgiving and each birthday,

he would call collect.

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A BIT OF A SHAMBLES

Before Churchill took the railings, evacuees

from Liverpool were lined up by the park

one September Sunday afternoon.

Local residents queued to take their pick.

Innocent days! My widowed Granny

and two spinster aunties – ex-Scousers

(though Toxteth Park not Scottie Road),

the sisters Great War collateral damage –

lined up to do their duty. They couldn’t cope.

The one they chose used the ‘f word’

and wet the bed. They gave her back

– and mentioned her,

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THE EMBRACE OF NOTHING

Chester, View from a Balloon, John McGahey, 1855

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Rome’s legionnaires quarried its sandstone cliffs

and Ptolemy put the Dee on the map.

William the Conqueror, in winter,

force-marched his army over the Pennines

to reach the river and waste the town – the last

to submit.  For eighteen years, Prince Gryfyd

ap Cynan, shut in the keep, heard only

the river’s voice, dyfrdwy, dyfrdwy.

Parliament’s forces sent fire rafts downstream

to purge besieged citizens.

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THE SPIDER AT OUR DOOR

All summer a spider, mottled like a cheetah, 

managed a web by our kitchen door.

 

Tap the net

and it would do its eight shoe scuttle. 

 

It went finally:

but the engineering survived –

intricate, pliable, foolproof –

through seasons of drizzle and bluster.

 

On an April day, a pallid sun

backlit trapped raindrops,

shimmering prisms.

We paused on the step, delighted.

 

The power of things to strive to be themselves

is absolutely self-regarding,

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ACCIDENTS

A sudden heavy shower of summer rain

slows the early evening motorway

to a blood red blur of brake lights.

In my mirror, I see two cars collide,

career across the lanes – and others stop,

receding out of sight into the downpour…

 

I am thirteen and a half and tall for my age –

the year of Hungary and Suez;

am sitting on the red leather back seat

of an almost straight-from-the-showroom

Morris Minor (in the inexorable green),

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