PASSING THE PARCEL

i.m. Ron Durdey

 

Each time I walk or drive by the one storey

Edwardian sandstone building with its

daunting windows and an entrance for Boys

and another for Girls and Infants

one of my alma maters, an All Age

Church of England school – a memory

will appear like a genie… It is Empire Day,

’51. Mr Youd, the Head Master,

takes the assembly. We sing, ‘I vow to Thee,

my country,

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EUREKA!

A realisation as sudden as

Archimedes’ leaping from his bath,

the moment when – in the pleasure gardens

of Wisley, with its giant rhubarb leaves,

its gaping carp, its hissing swans, its wild

playground – going for a well earned modest slab

of chocolate cake and a babychino

enhanced with spoonsful of Grandma’s latte,

pointing, she called out, “That says ‘Coffee Shop’!

I can read!”

 

 

Note: the poem was originally published in September 2015.

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AT THE END OF THE PIER

Past Songs of Yesteryear, Mystic Morgana,

and other booths – purveying Flags of the World,

Country & Western Memorabilia,

Decorous South Sea Shells, Home Made Welsh Fudge;

past the sustainable hardwood benches

with withered in memoriam bouquets;

over the planking with its measured gaps

through which to view, like a bioscope,

the incoming tide shimmy then shake

the fronds of bronze weeds among the rocks,

slap, strike the elegant, cast iron stanchions;

next to where even the line fishermen

are starting to stow their gear,

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HUMAN HANDS

For Howard Gardener, Arthur Kemelman and Mike Rogerson

 

How I envy them to make with their fingers

precisely what their imaginations

and knowledge dictates! I have watched for hours

a plasterer creating surfaces

smooth as silk, a bricklayer building

an oriel window. I have three

disparate friends, each of them a stranger

to the others, but with this common skill.

One inlays turned olive wood with the green

of malachite, the blue of lapis

and the brilliance of gold leaf.

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THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME

William the Conqueror’s fleet – of perhaps

five hundred long boats – assembled

in the Bay of the Somme. ‘History’

more or less rhymes with ‘irony’. The river

flowed through the flat bottomed chalky valley

steadily then and the years of the battle.

As the world has warmed, the water table

has risen, creating fens and marshes –

calm, bosky stretches catching the empty sky.

 

***

 

Numbers, for the most part, are abstract, even

of the British dead and wounded that first day –

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