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A TOKEN OF A COVENANT: MARCH 16TH 2018

And suddenly there, through the high sash window,

is a rainbow – lit by the westward sun –

from behind the church and over the park’s

leafless, lichened trees to the gated, faith school.

 

This is the season of illusion and sleight

of hand; the season of the braying bluster

of blinkered donkeys spooked by mayhem

in a cathedral city; the season

of the wet slap of the laundering of money

on the banks of the gun metal Thames;

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THE JIG’S UP

The simple memorial of slate and part

of a propeller was relocated

from the mountainous North Stack, where the plane crashed,

a mile to sea level in the Holyhead

Breakwater Country Park. The US

B24 Liberator bomber

was based at Valley ten miles away.

 

Returning from a radar jamming raid

over Northern France in very bad weather

the B24 overflew and, making

a re-approaching circuit, ran out of fuel.

Believing the aircraft was over land

the pilot ordered the eight non-commissioned

crew members to bail out.

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KITCHENER’S ISLAND

Our felucca tacked across the river Nile

to Aswan from Kitchener’s Island –

with its well watered botanical gardens

and its straight boulevards of tall palm trees –

gifted to Lord Kitchener of Khartoum,

pre Great War, as Egypt’s Consul-General.

 

As we approached the east bank, out of nowhere

it seemed, a boy appeared along side us

in a small zinc bath paddling with his hands

and singing, “‘Michael, row the boat ashore!

Hallelujah!’” – the old slave song learned then turned,

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NOW WE ARE SEVENTY FIVE

In more civilised days we might have appeared

on Wilfred Pickles’ radio show

‘Have A Go!’ and when he asked our age

and we told him he would say, ‘Seventy five,

ladies and gentlemen!’ and they would applaud,

and, before he asked ‘What’s on the table, Mable?’

and instructed ‘Give them the money, Barney!’,

he would ask how long we had been married –

more applause – and then he would ask us,

in his warm, BBC Yorkshire voice,

for the secret of our years of wedded bliss.

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THE OLD LIME TREES AT ERDDIG

for Glyn Smith

 

When the meticulously landscaped gardens

were left to hazard, during the estate’s

long, reclusive neglect, some of the trees

in the two avenues either side

of the wide ornamental canal – whose

perspective frames the classical proportions

of the house – began to grow together

like errant, statuesque teeth. A couple

have been extracted to save the rest.

 

… Limes are almost indestructible – felled trunks

will sprout.

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AT CHESTER CROSS

I am standing near the loud evangelists

by the medieval sandstone cross that marks

the centre of this erstwhile Roman camp,

Castra Deva, base for two centuries

of the Twentieth, Valeria Victrix

streets south and west to the Dee, east to forests

and the lush plain, north to sandstone outcrops.

 

The Presbyterian rhetoric

of Damnation and Sweet Jesus keeps

other spectators away, gives me

a clear view of the midsummer,

pagan parade –

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A NEW YORK TALE

Though they lived for decades no more than a block

from each other in Greenwich Village – one

in Washington Square, the other Patchin Place –

there is no record they ever met,

Hopper the painter, Cummings the poet.

 

They would have thought that they had nothing

in common – the real, the lyrical.

But, hey, what do geniuses know?

 

They may have passed each other on some sidewalk,

on Sixth Avenue or Bleecker Street,

or in the subway on 9th,

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LEVITICUS

As we travelled back from a London weekend

in the Quiet Zone on the afternoon express

three very young, head scarved mothers nursed

their newborns and chattered softly all the way.

At Chester they headed for the North Wales train.

 

Not far from the Great Orme Tramway Station,

Church Walks, Llandudno, and near St Georges,

is a three storey detached house whose ground floor

has been a synagogue for a century

and more. Lubavitch rabbis officiate.

Above the shul,

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RESURRECTION

Our house, the street’s first, was built epochs ago

on Cheshire pastureland. There has been nothing

for history to note here – only births, deaths,

the occasional fire and break-in,

and marriages at the Methodist Church

almost opposite us. Empires collapsed

from within – Austro-Hungarian,

British, French, German, Ottoman, Russian,

and Soviet. Here only the seasons came,

and bed-sits, then gentrification.

 

Now the St Petersburg Resurrection

A Cappella Choir – founded post-Gorbachev

to sing the liturgy in concert halls –

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A DEATH IN GASCONY

We flew late, on the year’s busiest Friday,

to Toulouse. As we drove in the hire car

through Haut-Garonne and Midi-Pyrénées

into Gascony, its rolling hills green

with August’s growth, the sun was setting –

the burgeoning fields of sunflowers paused, bats

swooped before the car like twilit angels.

 

As we topped each rise we could see the glow

fade in the west above the Bay of Biscay.

We arrived in darkness at the pension.

The patronne gave us supper on the terrace –

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