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OMENS

This October’s high water has almost reached

the top of the sea wall, its lapping

silenced by two oafish nabobs on jet skis –

iconoclasts shattering the seascape

of the Straits. Rain clouds along the mainland

are lifting, greyness lightening, slowly

becoming white – revealing early Autumn’s

gradual alchemy. Two porpoises

surface briefly out in the deepest channel,

swimming, in the remnants of the Gulf Stream,

from Cardigan Bay to Liverpool Bay.

 

As the tide drains northwards over Lavan Sands

from the unexpected south a cold breeze blows.

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OCTOBER 4TH

My first, and, so far, only – and that minor –

cardiac infarction fell on the date

of the sixty fourth anniversary

of The Battle of Cable Street, when the Jews

and the Irish stuffed Mosley and his Blackshirts,

the Old Wykehamist and his numbskulls,

the Daily Mail’s darling, a Great White Hope.

 

***

 

The consultant – of the old, aloof school,

and treated with awe by theatre staff –

liked Benny Goodman for accompaniment.

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FROM THE PERCH ROCK CAUSEWAY, NEW BRIGHTON

A small boy is digging in the Autumn sand.

Ships pass in the deep channel. Someone

has made a stand of driftwood twigs topped

with modest baubles. Directly below us

on the sandstone rocks is a dead buzzard

spread eagled – yes, almost literally

the right word – its head gone or hidden,

its exposed viscera gnawed, its talons

limp. We are humans therefore forensic

so discuss the causes of the bird’s demise

and mutilation: low flying aircraft, rats?

Some spring tide will lift whatever remains

of the magnificent black tipped wingspan

out into the oceans.

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THE FIVE GIANTS

Walking down Renshaw Street from ‘Rumpelstiltskin’

at the Unity then along Bold Street,

with its strolling crowds and varied eateries,

to Central Station, thinking of spinning gold

from straw, we pass beggars in doorways.

‘What are they doing?’ our granddaughter asks.

We explain. ‘Why don’t they get jobs?’ We explain.

 

My mother would tell me how, when she moved

to London before the war to be a nurse,

she was appalled by the rough sleepers

on the benches along the Thames Embankment.

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WINTERING

Pink-footed geese are wintering on the marshes

west of here – flocks from Spitzbergen, Iceland,

Greenland. This late October morning

the garden is full of noises: the trimming

and shaping of hedges, bushes, trees,

the blowing and gathering of leaves –

and high cries as a skein flies eastwards

to feed on wheat stalks in the stubble fields.

 

The afternoon is disturbed by sirens –

not fire or police or ambulance.

There have been explosions somewhere north

we are informed –

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OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

i.m. John Wareham

 

The tide of chance may bring
Its offer; but nought avails it!

THE OPPORTUNITY Thomas Hardy

 

Each week on Tuesday promptly at seven –

chicken curry and chips from Barry Wong’s

on West Derby Road at the ready –

he and I would turn on the TV

in our rented rooms to watch Hughie Greene’s

‘Opportunity Knocks’.  It was an hour –

including adverts – of metaphors

of the mid-sixties: kitsch;

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THE POET’S EYE

Maya Angelou would pronounce ‘poetry’

with each syllable given equal, gentle

weight, and the first two clear as a call, a soft

sonorousness as if water spoke.

 

***

 

There are few words in the English lexicon

with so many, diverse, Attic meanings

as ‘poet’: maker, inventor, composer,

speech writer, legislator, author:

images of workshops, and lecterns;

chambers with high ceilings and long windows;

the law’s austere and tempered modalities;

stanzas memorised then taught by rote;

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THE GRAIN LOFT

There are gaps between the Velux windows

and the blinds – intentional, of course,

to let in shafts of sunlight. At night

the sodium street lights make arrow shapes

on the bedroom’s walls. Raindrops the flood tide brings

slide like orangey, silvery glitter balls –

almost the colour of the wheat grains

that would have been piled on tarpaulins to dry

on the oak floorboards of this converted loft.

 

Thinking the street lights daylight herring gulls

halloo all night from chimney tops and gables.

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ARS POETICA

For Keith Johnson

 

‘Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.’ Carl Sandburg

 

I presume, since Carl Sandburg was a poet

of the railroad and the five-and-dime,

of prairie skies and the remarkableness

of the people, they are American

biscuits – that cross between scone and bannock –

to mop up the gravy from your beans

on the Chisholm Trail to Dodge City.

 

According to Homer, among others,

Hyakinthos,

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WHAT IS IT THAT STARTS A POEM?

Although it is a cold evening,

down by one of the fishhouses

an old man sits netting…  

AT THE FISHHOUSES Elizabeth Bishop

 

What is it that starts a poem? What rupture –

a fish tugging at a hook? What rapture –

the seventh wave breaking as it should?

Consider Elizabeth Bishop:

fatherless at one; her mother certified

four years later; taken from her grandparents

in Nova Scotia by her father’s parents

in Massachusetts; a Vassar girl

with a private income;

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