SAPPHIRE

We came here first maybe fifty years ago –

Porth Trecastell aka Cable Bay

(on Ynys Môn aka Anglesey) –

a small Iron Age hill fort on one headland,

a Neolithic grave on the other,

and a telephone cable to Ireland

in between. This bank holiday the bay

is busy – paddlers, bathers, canoeists.

 

In the gated burial chamber –

Barclodiad y Gawres, which translates,

‘the full apron of the giantess’ –

its prehistoric graffiti secured

against vandals,

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PRIMATES

The Cape Point funicular stops. A baboon

is squatting on the track, suckling its young.

Cameras click. We wait. Mother and child lope off

into the fynbos and the proteas.

We trundle down to the visitors’ centre.

 

On a path by the electrified fence

beneath the restaurant terrace, a baboon stalks.

Much further below and beyond is False Bay.

A distant whale breaches, and another –

then a destroyer passes, sailing

from Simons Town for the Southern Ocean.

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ON FIRST READING ‘THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO’

It was time to revise our atlases.

Europe was a river of broken ice,

Russia a mouth widening to a

frozen sea. GULAG was permanent winter.

Innocent, we had traced railways to

romantic ends. The atlas of knowledge showed

obscured crimes, its charts the colours and scale

of blizzards. A new world had been shaping.

Multitudes were shunted across nations.

A chronicle of whispers is the pure

saga, epic of the supreme fiction,

where history is lost, where ten million

lives are broken like glass.

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A POET IN WARTIME

Nuns clambered on the headland. Like scarabs,

they traversed the sage slope of limestone

to the hermit’s shrine. Marine creatures, landlocked,

awaited the sea’s coming. The poet

descended by funicular to the bay’s

elegant crescent of hotels. Mists

trailed the foothills of distant peaks. In saloons

of bevelled mirrors, his comrades sang

marching songs. A love poem formed like breath.

 

He crunched on innumerable pebbles.

Waves gasped and sighed, smoothing the wooden groynes.

Two aircraft,

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ANTIQUITY

Ancient Greeks preferred it to chronicles

for poetry is the art of maybe,

the alchemy which turns fact into song.

 

‘Antiochus honours the saviours of men,

the immortals, Asclepius of

the gentle hands, Hygeia, Panakeia.’

On the margins of barbarity

and wilderness,  a Greek army doctor

commissioned a recondite altar – found

some seventeen hundred years later

when Chester’s Market Hall, its pediment

topped with cornucopia, was flattened.

 

Centuries before the Twentieth

was stationed here,

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