A BOOK OF HOURS

 

'Fevrier' from Les Tres Riche Heures du Duc De Berry

'Février' from Les Tres Riche Heures du Duc De Berry

 

July

We are rather formally attired

for country pursuits in the ducal woods;

August

me with a tie and you, I uncover,

with white suspenders and matching knickers.

September

Intimate stranger, forever touching

for your least kindness, forever surprising;

October

unpredictable as light,

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DULCE DOMUM

Built well before the Mahdi sacked Khartoum,

like a ledger or the Church of England

our house is square, accommodating. Swifts,

each May, pronounce their southern benison

on ashlar cornerstones and dead masons…

A butterfly, lost in the wintry cellar,

seems closed as death but wings part knowingly.

O peacock eyes, how you seduce from purpose

and time! Imperial birds cry harshly

in paper gardens… At dusk, in indigo,

swifts dissolve. The house is white, seems solid

as a steamship.

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THE FALL OF EUROPE

The Assassin

The Assassin

Lucheni had waited all day in the pines

above the lake. When she passed, he begged.

Her equerry dismissed him. As always,

self-absorbed, she saw nothing: an anarchist

with a grand and personal design.

On the quayside at Geneva, a week

later, Lucheni, the labourer,

stabbed Elizabeth, Empress of Austria,

with a homemade knife. Her husband foresaw,

like her assassin, anarchy: armies

entrenching in Bohemia;

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ORPHEUS

The high windows caught the sky, varicose,

livid. The house was empty, unlived-in.

He hurried down wide paths strewn with rose petals,

wind-culled and faded. He searched borders,

bushes, her features imaged and snared in shapes

of angled branch and thorn, an orange sun

searing gun-metal clouds, the fountain sprouting

papery leaves, its bronze boy greening alone.

Ivy’s grasp crumbled artifice, obscured

the basin inscribed with a sonnet.

Soughing of breath or the wind in the arbour

summoned him into its close.

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CHUZPAH

A nor’ easterly blew – over Dutchman Bank –

on the front at Beaumaris, so we had

our chips, fish and mushy peas in the Vectra,

watching the ebb tide slowly, slowly expose

the furrowed gold of the Lavan Sands

and the cormorants and oyster catchers

skim the waves, when, suddenly, a herring gull,

that voracious omnivore, that frequenter

of rubbish tips and landfills – the colours

of its plumage pristine, as if painted –

landed on our bonnet and,

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