THE SCENERY OF DREAMS

Where the estuary suddenly narrows

and the river begins its slow bends

through the valley, white smoke is drifting

from a thicket of trees where egrets roost.

The birds are rising, like sudden flags

fluttered, bright cloths flung into the air,

their dry, rattling calls echoing

across the empty river just at its flow.

 

Above where the sage hills become lilac

mountains, beyond where the invaders

ever went, high on the summer pastures

with the sheep fattening for the valley,

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AN END OF INNOCENCE

What marks it is not her correct usage

on a card, unprompted, of apostrophes,

nor that we can trust her now to cycle

undistracted – even by the ice cream van’s

heralded arrival – around the park,

though intermittently out of our sight

behind mighty limes and conifers,

but, sleeping over one night – her parents

working many, many miles away –

waking, coming down, preoccupied,

confessing oh so reluctantly

to ‘a bad thought’, a terrifying

what if,

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A SILK PURSE: THE EVERYMAN THEATRE, LIVERPOOL

Before it was the Everyman Theatre

it was Hope Hall Cinema – and bar –

frequented by Dooley, Henri, McGough,

the Liverpool Scene. I saw Jean Renoir’s

1939 black and white ‘La Règle

du Jeu’ – Chekhovian, dystopian

entre deux guerres – in what was an untouched

dissenters’ chapel four-square between

the two cathedrals on Hope Street.

 

It became a theatre known for new writing,

new music – all with a political edge

and with humour,

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BRUEGEL: ‘RETURN OF THE HUNTERS’

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To choose this as a classic Christmas card –

this composite landscape of Flanders,

Italy, the Alps, this Yuletide Europe – is

unintentional satire. The hunters

have caught just one fox. Even the hounds are hangdog.

Hunched the men trudge on past the tavern.

The sign is inscribed ‘Under the Stag’,

has an image of St Eustace, patron

of hunters, but hangs askew by one hook.

Beneath it a man, a woman and a child

are singeing a dead pig.

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A WINTER’S JOURNEY

Driving northwards, driving homewards, we pass

inundated pasture – mercurial

in shape and colour – its sheen reflecting

the late morning’s rare roseate sky.

Bared trees and bushes are a dull amber.

 

In time, cloud cover becomes leaden –

then snow falls: the downy flakes like weightless

seeds, which the windscreen wipers flail clear

again and again. The empty fields fill,

remorselessly, as early evening comes.

 

Miles on, the snow no longer falls. It has

settled.

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