A VIEW OF THE STRAITS

The image has stayed with me since last summer

when we sat on the restaurant’s terrace

sipping Prosecco with our small family

to celebrate our first fifty years

of marriage: a view I had not seen before

of these straits I thought I knew so well

between Ynys Môn and Gwynedd’s coast,

a view – past Bangor Pier and Gallow’s Point,

over the Lavan Sands and Dutchman’s Bank

hidden beneath the high tide’s guileful waters –

to the rose horizon,

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THE DEARTH OF HONEY

Where the mortar between old bricks has crumbled

in the weathers, where the felt of a flat roof

has lifted, beneath slates above a gutter

through a gap the height of a feather,

among cascades of ivy on a high wall

topped with broken glass, wild bees are about

their business, crowding buddleia, bending

stalks of lavender, devoted subjects

of their queen, diminutive beside

dying cousins. On their fragile wings

we, republican or monarchist, depend,

each flight an errand of life,

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TEATRO DEI RIUNITI

The Tiber’s olive waters curve past

Umbertide or, rather, the town curves

to the river in this limpid valley

alive with oak trees, willows, poplars

and millennia of settlements,

monuments – Etruscan, Roman, Lombard.

 

To impede the German’s retreat northwards,

the Allies bombed the bridge across the river

successfully and, collaterally,

razed a block of tall, narrow houses –

and many of their inhabitants.

 

The house numbers are brass inlaid in the setts

of what is now a car park in this

medieval town with its Via Papa

Giovanni XXIII,

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THE TARRY WHALE

There were two wonders in our provincial town

on the cindery car park by the river

when I was seventeen – both August marvels.

 

First was the Century Theatre,

with its proper post war worthiness,

touring each year the north and the midlands

from the Five Towns to West Hartlepool

in three bespoke aluminium trailers

pulled by an ex-army Crossley tractor.

The same actress played Jimmy Porter’s

Alison, Sally Bowles and Elena

Ivanova Popova in ‘The Bear’.

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THE ANATOMY OF PILGRIMAGE

We had not visited Beddgelert for years.

We remembered the winding, bosky drive

following the Glaslyn from Porthmadog,

slowly climbing as the swift river narrows;

the walk across the field to Gelert’s grave

with its slate marker his remorseful owner,

Prince Llywelyn the Great, erected

for the faithful hound he had killed in

frantic error, finding too late the dead wolf

and the saved baby. Who would not be moved

by such an irredeemable act!

The sounds of endless waters rush nearby.

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