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THE PLOT AGAINST THESE ISLANDS

One February night in ’74

the Army occupied Heathrow Airport.

The BBC’s Nine O’Clock news explained

the occupation was an exercise

in how to deal with a terrorist threat.

The new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson,

learned of the exercise from the TV,

recognised it as the dress rehearsal

of a coup against his premiership –

a coup that would have been sanctified

by an announcement from her Majesty,

an emergency government led by

her husband’s uncle,

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TOWARDS A DEFINITION

Anti-Semitism is the demagogue’s

canard,  the resort of the populist,

the calculating racist’s dog whistle,

the opportunist’s bigotry, hatred of,

and prejudice against, Jewish people.

 

When Alfred Dreyfus was humiliated

on the Champs de Mars there were three hundred

Jewish officers in the French Army,

ten of them generals. The real spy,

Major Esterhazy, with official

connivance, died in his bed as Count

de Voilement at ‘Holmleigh’, 21

Milton Road, Harpenden,

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CONFLUENCE

To dominate the conflux of the rivers,

the Minnesota with the Mississipi,

a place inhabited for ten thousand years,

Bdote in the local language,

Fort Snelling was built on the bluff above.

The confluence of the rivers was sacred

to the Dakota Sioux, who believed

that their first ancestors had come as spirits

from the stars, and had been made human

from the clay along the riverbanks,

with life breathed into them like a newborn’s cry.

 

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PROPHETS

The evangelist – spiritual aide-de-camp

to Old Glory’s Commanders-in-Chief,

and nostrum-monger of eternal life –

in white shirt, black shoes, socks, trousers, the Good Book

open in his hands, sits astride a donkey

near the Garden of Gethsemane

on Mount Olive. Below him on Temple Mount,

in noonday brightness, is the Dome of the Rock

and the Al-Aksa Mosque and, out of sight,

the Western Wall. He looks at the camera

as one who might say, ‘Behold! When the Jews

hold Jerusalem heaven will open.

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THE WRONG TROUSERS?

Found among the effects in the bullet-pocked,

blood stained rooms of Bin Laden’s hideaway

in Abbottabad – named for Major Abbott

of the British Raj – was a journal

describing Osama’s time in the UK

as a young, ultimately disillusioned,

teenager. For some reason, unexplained,

with his hosts he visited Shakespeare’s birthplace

every Sunday. ‘Here’s a knocking indeed!…

How now? A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!’

 

Also found: ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’

dubbed in Pashtu;

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CAPTAIN TILLY PARK, QUEENS, SEPTEMBER 2001

‘The park is named for Captain George H. Tilly, a local son of a prominent family who was killed in action in the Philippines while serving in the Spanish-American War, and a monument to the war is prominent in the park.’ New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

 

From the park’s Memorial Hill one can see

Manhattan, and the World Trade Center’s

Twin Towers. Below, this Labor Day

early evening, the benches round Goose Pond

are filled with families – Sikh, Jamaican,

Hispanic.

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THE GUN EMPLACEMENT

For Doreen Levin

 

He was on duty the night Liverpool burned.

They watched the orange glow over in the east.

He remembered the convoy earlier that day

strung out along the horizon, waiting

for high tide. The Lance Jack, Scouser One,

told them where it was. One of the Taffies said,

‘My brother’s there too’, leaving things unspoken.

 

In the silence Saul wondered if Tilbury

was being done as well, the bombs drifting,

as usual,

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D-DAY CELEBRATIONS

The TV presenter speaks of ‘sacrifice’.

She is al fresco on a purple sofa

with puce cushions. In the middle ground

are dignitaries, veterans, and a band.

Beyond are the War Graves Commission’s white ranks

of the British dead from Sword and Gold.

 

Only one speaker – beret, blazer, medals,

a RN signaller on a landing craft –

comes close to hinting that no one chose

to be a sacrifice. His speech is short,

even appropriately amusing,

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THE RÜSSELSHEIM MURDERS

I was Gratiano, Bassanio’s pal

in The Merchant of Venice. He ends the play

with an obscene pun. We were an ensemble

of drama teachers performing the piece

in English at Rüsselsheim’s Stadttheater,

the year after the Wall came down – so the pun

was probably lost somewhere in translation.

 

We were a couple of hours from the border.

One of our group became ill. The doctor,

treating her in the hostel where we stayed,

thought at first she was an ‘Ossie’.

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1746

The prisoners were dispersed across the north,

being too numerous for one assize –

many had followers, women and children:

a lost cause’s collateral damage.

 

An unrecorded number – of both rebels

and dependents – was held on the heath

a quarter of a mile due west of here

where I am researching and typing.

 

They wintered among the gorse and the heather.

Maybe there were tents, or perhaps bivouacs,

certainly for the guards.

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