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THE NAKBA

‘…mourning and sorrow shall end,
when I return to Jerusalem…’

Mediaeval Jewish Prayer

 

‘We suffer from an incurable malady: Hope.’

Mahmoud Darwish

 

On a land mass that is the size of landlocked

Rutland, the smallest county in England,

Gaza, the Earth’s third most populated

polity, has two small rivers  and a hill.

Its city, four thousand years ago,

was the site of a Pharaonic fortress.

 

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THE SKY ABOVE

From the kitchen door of the holiday let,

down the hill, over roof tops, on a clear day,

are the summits of the mainland’s mountains;

from the front door the gaol’s stone grey massif;

above the cottage’s small courtyard,

where the privy was and now are festive lights

and a hot tub burbling, is a square of sky.

 

Around the corner in Steeple Lane

high in the prison wall is a door,

with rivets either side to hold the scaffold

when it was needed.

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ON LITTLE EYE

Only the highest tides reach this small island’s

sandstone rocks. A collar of flaxen sand

surrounds it. A quarter of a mile north

is Middle Eye. A hundred yards further

is Hilbre, habitation of hermits,

custom’s officers, weather stations.

These three are rugged, stony outcrops

in the mouth of the estuary.

 

Leaving West Kirby’s suburban promenade,

we had walked, at low water, to Little Eye

across the Dee’s hard, striated sands.

Westward is Wales, and the redundant lighthouse

at Point of Ayr,

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FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF HISTORY

My granddaughter and I paused before Turner’s

‘War: the Exile and the Rock Limpet’

in the collection of the artist’s work

at Tate Britain, Millbank, beside the Thames.

The exile is Napoleon Bonaparte

on St Helena. He stands – in signature

outfit including the hat – arms folded,

contemplating obscure life in a rock pool.

A guard, musket shouldered, stands some paces off.

The sun rises or sets on a swirling, volcanic coast.

‘Was Napoleon really that tall?’ she asked.

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BLOOMSBURY

‘O, there you are,’ Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.

ULYSSES, James Joyce

 

Joyce read his poems to Lady Gregory

in Dublin. She was impressed and gave him five pounds

to help fund his escape to Paris

from the ‘coherent absurdity’ (his words)

of Catholicism. She wrote to Yeats –

her close friend and patronee, who had lodgings

a five minute walk from Euston – to meet him

off the Holyhead train at six a.m.,

give him breakfast,

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‘THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE’

Our present government, unfairly perhaps,

is often caricatured as self-serving,

racist and incompetent – and yet,

with a rather modest investment

of taxpayers’ money, has published

a report which may revolutionise

our study of history, showing

not just the costs but the benefits

to victims of great crimes: ‘There is a new

story about the Caribbean

experience which speaks to the slave period

not only being about profit

and suffering but how culturally

African people transformed themselves

into a re-modelled African/Britain.’

 

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FROM THE TERRACE

Begun the year of Waterloo, finished

in that of Peterloo, built on rents

and sugar, this – according to Pevsner –

‘modest’ Palladian mansion sits

on a slope, a belvedere. Mature trees

overhang the erstwhile stable block,

now a spa. The hotel is a venue

for weddings – featured in ‘Bride of the Year’ –

and funerary teas, like today’s in sun.

 

From the terrace, and over the ha-ha,

sheep graze in broad fields hedged with hawthorn,

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APHORISMS AND INDEMNITY: AN IDEA OF AMERICA

For Clive Watkins

 

‘The maker’s rage to order words…’

THE IDEA OF ORDER AT KEY WEST, Wallace Stevens

 

There, as we drove past the Heritage Centre

that once was a medieval  church, on the steps,

among the shoppers and the trippers,

there on a provincial, English street

was a busker with a blue guitar.

 

And I thought of the poem by Wallace Stevens,

who did not drive, and walked to work each day –

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THE TRICKSTER

Whether the same crow as last year has returned

or this is a different crow with the same habits

is as much a metaphysical issue

as a zoological one – whichever

is the case the sequence of events

in the Great Lockdown is being repeated.

Early morning the crow flies in, and places

a piece of bread in the bird bath – where blackbirds

have bathed, and robins sipped; flies off; returns

in hours, and snacks on the marinated bread;

flies off;

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INCONSEQUENTIAL

A long section of the grassy bank beside

the ornamental lake is roped-off –

a pair of Canada Geese is nesting,

the first in the history of the Park

with its long-serving Coots and Mallards.

We sit on a bench and contemplate the geese –

almost as big as Mute Swans; adept

colonisers, considered still, after

three hundred years, non-native; this chance pair

perhaps blown off course between raucous lagoons.

 

We are distracted by raised voices

from the opposite bank –

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