FOLLOWING THE CHAIN

The photograph could have been taken anywhere

they forged the Royal Navy’s anchor chains –

Dudley, Newcastle, Ponypridd or here

in Saltney, Chester, reclaimed marshland

near the river. Wherever the Sea Lords chose

to give the contract the chain makers

and their families moved – like funfair folk

or circus people – if they were able.

 

There are thirteen men in the picture – a shift

about to go on judging by the spotless

faces, arms and hands.

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A MATTER OF MATHEMATICS

The garden is busy today. A robin

and a wren appear to be nesting.

The noisy blackbirds certainly are.

We are preparing for the partial eclipse

with the pinhole cameras we have made

from paper plates. In the event –

on the first day of spring – the sun is veiled,

as if by wisps of smoke, so we can glance

directly at the moon’s crossing, at this

dark geometry. There is excitement

in neighbouring gardens – and, over the road,

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DYSTOPIA: A WORK IN PROGRESS

When the British and the French almost

literally drew lines in the sand

to divvy up the Ottoman Empire –

tutored by romantic, wistful Arabists

at the Quai D’Orsay and the Foreign Office –

there was nothing left for the Yazidis,

the Druze, the Kurds… It was always about oil –

and then Sunni Arabs and Zionist Jews.

It is always about oil, diamonds,

timber, gold, slaves, coal — and useful idiots.

 

*

 

Saddam hanged,

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ET IN ARCADIA EGO

I have not heard a cuckoo here since childhood

when fields were wilder and trees less sparse.

I heard one this year in Gascony,

on the Plateau de Lannemazan,

on a wooded ridge with the late March winds

from the Pyrenees rasping the corn stubs

in the field below and rushing

through the budding trees bright with lichen

and ruffling the flowers on the blackthorn

and the violets among the leaf mould.

 

Between a gap in the trees the ridge way

was bare limestone.

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THE RULES OF THE GAME

I had my first hair cut when I was three.

(I had been tricked, bamboozled, farfirt).

My grandpa took me to his barber’s –

redolent with banter and tobacco smoke –

near the junction of Cricklewood Lane

and Finchley Road. It was frequented

by his card playing cronies. I watched him

have his hair trimmed and some strands combed over.

I was invited to try the high chair

but, no sooner there, I was begowned

and the scissors flashed.

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