A MODEST PROPOSAL

As always, how grand last year’s end sounded –

like a century’s, a millennium’s!

Number’s arbitrary significance.

 

Nothing will change, only the detail.

Cats will stalk robins, gardeners chase cats

and the bird will be flown whatever.

 

Whether in hunger or joy,  song or silence,

the same heaven above us, wishful or real,

accept, please, my gift of continuing love.

 

 

 

 

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I REMEMBER…

I watch, from Tesco’s rooftop car park, a flock

of fluttering pigeons curve over what was

the cattle market with its echoing pens,

another car park now. From Cow Lane Bridge,

I watched, as a schoolboy, one winter

when the canal was frozen deep, a cow –

being herded to the nearby abattoir –

slide from the towpath, become trapped between

the ice and the quay, her fearful eyes wide,

her bellowing silencing the gathered crowd.

The drovers cursed her,

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THE DEAD

The dead are the easiest of subjects

eventually. Their deaths are the most

matter of fact instantly.  For, whether

naturally (with a little sigh) or

violently (by nail, rope, then reeling

chair), sent into oblivion, they take

at least two people’s breaths away. Once there –

heaven or nowhere – they may be conjured

and, at first, seem to insist upon it:

his voice, her wit.  Soon (a month or a life),

they become tractable and may be shaped

into keepsakes –

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FLYING TO JOHANNESBURG

 

1

 

This is no journey for old men. We have

too many entanglements, too many

memories. Too arduous to travel

south through a whole day or a whole night,

yet with too little time for unresolved,

unresolvable enigmas, day and night:

a single camel train in the Sahara;

sporadic bonfires in the Congo.

 

 

2

 

Whether Heathrow, Charles De Gaulle or Schipol,

after Security’s uncertainty,

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A JAR OF STICKLEBACKS

For a thousand years…are…as a watch

in the night.’ Psalm 90, The Authorized Version.

 

We are looking for Roary Lion and

Twit Whu Owl, my grand daughter and I –

sitting companionably side by side

on the sofa, she not yet one, me close

to the ‘days of my years’, as the psalmist says –

lifting the flaps on each of the pages

to find the beasts and release the sounds, she

concentrating like a biblical scholar

until,

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