Footballers in the park grow younger, play

longer into December nights. In my garden,

leaves decompose. Fogs rise to the window.

I see my father’s features in the glass.


Gulls are grave, funereal in their white

seriousness. Bad weather visitors,

fickle as spume-flecks, they flitter from grass

into heavy skies, craftsmen in gravity.


Winter is too human for comfort.

Natural we should shudder as darkness

drifts in sooner. Ice seasons carry home

truths on incisive air.



The pool is off the Dorking-Guildford road,

at the foot of the North Downs; is fed

from a spring, which seeps through chalk and flint;

is so-called for allegedly no birds sing

in this glade of ash, oak and yew;

a place of legend, of Druidic worship,

rumoured deep enough to drown secrets.

A sharp March wind rattles twigs and branches.


By the side of a flint pathway – that leads

to the top of the Downs with its Pilgrims’ Way,



I received a call from a literary friend

late some evening in the ‘70s –

I forget the year and the day – to tell me

Yevtushenko would be reading his poems,

the following evening, in Lecture Room 35

at Liverpool Polytechnic.

It was confidential. If they knew,

Zionists would protest

on behalf of the refuseniks.

I thought of his ‘Babi Yar’ –

‘I see myself an ancient Israelite…

And that is why I call myself a Russian!’

Either way,



In an art deco theatre on the Avenue Montaigne

off the Champs Élysées – newly built, its exterior

(for style and mechanics in concrete) the interior

(gilt, lead paint and plush) still smelling fresh – there is a riot

on the evening of May 29th at the premiere

of the ballet, ‘The Rite of Spring’, by Igor Stravinsky,

Vaslav Nijinsky and Nicholas Roerich.


This is the year the House of Romanov celebrates

its three hundredth anniversary, the year there are two

Balkan Wars,



I pause at the long window where the stairs turn.

The first hard frost of the season has rimed

the moss on the terrace. A neighbour has thrown,

as she does daily, stale bread on the flat roof

of her garage. Two Jackdaws arrive

then a small flock of Black-headed gulls

in winter plumage. The first comers

are aggressive. The gulls hover, swoop, feint,

feed swiftly, rise, return – like dancers.

(How truly ancient is these animal’s

ancestry! How arriviste we primates are!).



His cell, of course; breaking stones in the yard;

his endurance; his spirit; and his comrades’;

some warders and prisoners living there still,

in harmony, in freedom…


and these images:


the birds, teeming – African Penguins,

Crowned Cormorants, Cattle Egrets, Sacred Ibis;


part of the concrete wall of a cell block

made into a door on rails – ingenious, pointless;


Cape Town  and Table Mountain gilded in the soft,