ONLY HALF A LIE, a novella, will be published on this site next year.
For a generation, like weather cocks,
their skeletons swung near the highway.
James Price and Thomas Brown had robbed the Mail.
Years turned. The Gowy flooded and the heath
flowered. Travellers noted the bones
hanging in chains by the Warrington road.
Justices ordered the gibbet removed,
the remains disposed of. In Price’s skull,
while Napoleon was crossing the Alps
or Telford building bridges or Hegel
defining Historical Necessity
or Goya painting Wellington’s portrait,
a robin made its nest.
Photograph: ‘Aber Falls’ – ©Sylvia Selzer 2000
Anger, despair – torrential, unstoppable –
possesses me, unprompted. Undeserved,
you suffer it like hail. It leaves no signs.
Your heart is adamant, ever yielding.
Rainwater, falling on the marshy uplands,
courses through the thick glacial veneer –
beneath the main road near the chip shop,
past second homes and holiday lets,
under the promenade and by the pub –
onto the beach and into the oceans.
Safe behind glass, from our rented apartment,
‘East end girl, dancing the Lambeth Walk‘ Bill Brandt, 1939
He’s set it up, of course. Or, rather, framed it.
There’d be no feigning this young woman’s delight
in being ‘free and easy’ and doing
‘as you darn well pleasy’. She’s got her best blouse on,
with shoulder puffs, her sister’s shoes, which fit her now,
black ankle socks and shoulder length, unpermed hair
freshly washed – and waved, probably with Kirby grips.
Doin’ the walk, she lifts the hem of her skirt,
The hardback quarto exercise book opens
at ‘Funny Valentine’, an unfinished,
blank verse piece – full of Auden, Larkin, Yeats –
in thick-nib fountain pen on feint ruled lines.
Four decades old and more – and pristine:
‘Today, at best, brings scented, satin hearts,
Numb messengers of somebody’s desires…’
I can see the back room in the shared flat:
sagging bed, faded armchair, torn carpet,
wobbly table; I’d brought a large ashtray,
a glass fronted bookcase and a small, handmade
Chinese cabinet; a tv blared upstairs.
Through the sash window stuck fast with paint
was the littered garden –
Each Armistice Day, she remembered it.
A walk along the riverbank. Her teacher took them –
one Saturday when the hawthorn was out
and the river slow after weeks of sun –
her and three of the other older girls.
Miss Davies’ young man came too –
in his uniform, on leave from the front.
When they all rested in the shade of a willow,
he unwrapped a large bar of chocolate
slowly, looking away, or pretending to,
across the river. Suddenly he turned.
‘Voila!’, he said, holding it out to them.