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All Posts By David Selzer

FROM AGINCOURT TO MARIUPOL

Much of the history of modern Europe,

from Agincourt to Mariupol,

seems to comprise ignorant, arrogant

purportedly Christian armies – some ragged,

most well financed – advancing, retreating,

slaughtering innocents, telling lies,

with brief respites for rearmament,

and victory’s parades and revenges.

 

Even respectable men who should know

better, scholars and poets, politicos

and hacks, pretend to be soldiers, to ‘Hear

the drums of morning play. Hark the empty

highways crying “Who’ll beyond the hills away?”‘

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THE LITHOGRAPH

The pandemic was daily news last year,

often from someone’s kitchen or study.

Once, behind a British virologist’s

talking head, was a black and white lithograph

from the same series of a hundred

as one we have: ‘Berezy’, ‘Birches’,

ours bought in Moscow’s Izmailovsky Market –

the May Putin was first crowned – from the artist’s

son, the father an emigré in New York.

 

Uncle Vanya and the Three Sisters

might stray into the etching’s romantic

melancholy,

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THE MAKING OF HISTORY

Though both of his parents were Party members

they had him secretly baptised in case

Stalin died. They often spoke about

the Doroga Zhizni, the Road of Life,

the ice routes built across Lake Ladoga

each winter, under bombardment, to help

lift the siege of Leningrad. He spent

much of his childhood chasing after rats

in the bombed-out ruins of Peter the Great’s

once imperial city. Perhaps he was

playing at being Ivan the Terrible

routing the Tatars from Crimea.

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EXCEPTIONALISM

The Japanese Imperial Army’s

mistreatment of POWs

during World War II was a war crime.

The killing of Japanese civilians

in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by the United States Army Air Force

was a geopolitical strategy.

 

Daily, on the tv screen, out of the sky

suffering comes: dust, flames, detritus,

outcries – and the living burdened, fleeing…

 

…Myanmar, Baghdad, Grozny, the fall

of Paris – long lines of people south

on the roads through the fields of the Beauce,

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WHEN THE TIMES DARKEN

After the Anschluss and Sudetenland,

before the invasion of Poland,

Bertholt Brecht, in exile from the Third Reich

in a thatched cottage on a Danish island,

posed a question in a short poem –

‘When the dark times arrive will there still be songs?’

As poets tend to do Brecht answered himself.

‘Yes, there will even then be singing – about

the dark times that have come’.

 

After the arms manufacturer’s profits

have returned to normal, and democratic

politicians’

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BETWEEN RIVERS: INTRODUCTION – ALAN HORNE

It’s a great pleasure to introduce and act as guest editor for this new section of David’s site.

One day, David and I found that we had both written poems which referred obliquely to the Gresford disaster, a coalmine explosion in a village near Wrexham in north-east Wales which killed 266 people in 1934. We discovered a shared interest in this part of Wales, which centres on the catchment of the River Alyn. No surprise there: the area is a popular destination for days out from Chester where David has lived for most of his life, and from the Wirral where I spent my childhood.

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