LA CLEF DES CHAMPS

'La Clef Des Champs,' René Magritte, 1936



When the landscape breaks, shards of painted trees,

clouds, turf cascade in crystal slabs onto

the carpet – and the landscape is there still

on the next pane. Over the brow of the rise

are the world’s kingdoms: deserts silenced

by polished bone; uneasy rooms where

sepia furniture flowers; canvas; wood;

the gallery’s wall solid as money –

asservir le bourgeoisie through draughtmanship.

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BEASTLINESS

‘…hardly any Jews!’, The Matabele Campaign 1896,
Colonel R.S.S. Baden-Powell, Methuen, London, 1897


The British in Africa seem always

to have verged on the comical. There was

BP chasing a Matabele girl

through bush. He was ahorse, she on foot.

In tranquillity, he sketched the scene – the girl

bare-footed and -breasted, himself at a

gallop – for publication. She escaped –

but Rhodesia was made safe for Cecil,

the continent for Aids and exploitation.

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THE WAR ON TERROR

 

2001

Riding the F Train that August –

from Queens to Manhattan, Jamaica

Estates to Times Square – were all

of the hues and tongues and tribes and faiths.

Dead at our door, on our return,

wings stretched as if in flight,

lay a hen harrier, a female.

You chose to bury it gently

in the warm September earth.

Five thousand miles away,

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ON THE NATURE OF THINGS

From the terrace at Polesden Lacey, it was

the guttural calls caught our attention –

then sheep flowing fast over rising ground

like a pale yellow banner in the wind,

then the shepherd himself, then his dogs

flattening themselves at his command.

By the time we reached the valley bottom,

the beasts were penned – lambs from ewes,

the latter funnelled for the shearers.

The bleating drowned the whirring of the clippers.

From the high bridge over the Tweed at Kelso,

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

You were here last year in your mother’s womb

at this cottage high above the straits.

Now you grab for buttercups, daisies, clover,

self-heal – and edge toward sleep in the stillness

under the parasol. Ringlet butterflies

flit across the grass. Blackbirds forage

among the mulch of last autumn’s leaves

at the margin where garden and woodlands merge.

A pheasant rattles somewhere out of sight.

Watching over you is a privilege.

Some time since last year,

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