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For Alex Cox

‘I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes.’ Winston Churchill

As usual, he dresses for town
in anticipation of the King’s summons –
which never comes. After breakfast, he reads
The Times and the Daily Telegraph, notes
Ghandi’s lenient sentence of six years
in prison without hard labour – then,
reflecting on unrest throughout the Empire,
puts on his smock and his homburg and strolls,
cigar lit, the short walk to his studio.
He pours a small portion of Johnny Walker –
the bottle kept always with a clean glass
on the bench he sits on to paint – and adds
a measure of Vichy water. He is working
on a painting of his son reclining
in a deck chair on a terrace in Leghorn.
After the third glass he dreams as usual.

He captures Peter the Painter personally
at the Siege of Sidney Street. Gallipoli
is a famous victory. He leads
his country in war and is returned to power
by an ever so grateful nation. He wakes
and paints in the features of his wayward
son named for his own wayward father.

After the fourth he dreams again. He persuades
the King, at last, to order the razing
of Liverpool as punishment for
the seamen’s strike and the policemen’s strike.
At first light on a soft summer dawn
the dreadnought battleship HMS
Nemesis drops its anchors opposite
Wallasey Town Hall and trains its 15 inch
guns firstly on the Three Graces. He wakes
suddenly as he always does knowing
that, viewing the devastation from the
Avro Bison flying north above
the ruins of West Derby Road, he would see
the few Celts who survived fleeing to where
they had no place, the Lancashire hinterland –
west to the lush, orderly market gardens
of The Fylde and east to the cotton towns,
bustling, regimented. He has a fifth,
lights a cigar and strolls back for lunch.



Note: the poem was first published by Exterminating Angel Press –




© Copyright David Selzer
4 Responses
  • Ashen
    May 21, 2015

    A wide sweep, focussing on Churchill, a different frame on his remarkable fame, for which the nation seems forever grateful.
    Not that familiar with English history, I looked up the 1775 Liverpool Seamen’s Revolt, and found myself admiring the guts of the seamen.
    I suppose after 4 Johnny Walkers and several cigars, one aquires a certain distance on world affairs.

  • David Selzer
    May 22, 2015

    The reference in the poem is to the merchant seamen strike which began in Liverpool in 1911 and became nationwide. It’s mentioned in this poem – The revolt you mention is new to me. Many thanks for bringing it to my attention, Ashen.

  • Bonnie Flach
    May 30, 2015

    Ah, the other side to ol Winston. My oh my you write so well!

  • George Westgarth
    June 26, 2015

    I have read, and reread, your latest works, David, but I keep returning to Churchill. From his days when he uttered such obscenities in an arrogance born of his upbringing, did he mellow and mature, and learn to appreciate, if not respect, the value and values of his fellow-men?

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