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SAME OLD, SAME OLD

Impelled by Wall Street and the Pentagon,

and the vanity of Presidents,

the astronauts had seemed to sail beyond

experience – but we TV millions watched

live ‘Old Glory’ stiffen above us;

heard Nixon speak; saw Aldrin at attention.

Meanwhile, oblivious, the Vietcong

were waiting patiently in their tunnels.

 

***

 

The day of the moon landing we walked up

Bidston Hill to the Observatory,

where my great grandfather – who had captained

coffin ships to Boston –

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DAY BREAKING

Sleepless I opened the slats of the bathroom’s

white Venetian blind expecting darkness

but the eastern sky over our neighbours’ roofs

was already pale, and the Morning Star glowed

gilded, and I suddenly remembered

being in the yard of an old coaching inn,

standing by a sandstone horse trough still used

for hunts, its water frozen so deeply

I could only crack the surface with my fist.

Behind the inn farmland – ploughed, hoar frosted,

horse trampled – stretched unfenced over a rise.

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ORGANISED CRIMES

I watched the TV parade of affluent

(and mostly public school) chancers, liars,

fantasists, hypocrites, law-breakers

vie to top each other’s warmed-up clichés

and self-serving platitudes. The social

and economic future dystopia most

seemed to desire would, they assured us,

bring out the British best in all of us,

just like the Blitz. I thought of bomb-razed

building lots in major cities still empty,

and a tale a cabby told me years ago,

taxiing me from the railway station.

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WALKING HOME

We talked of those we had worked with that day,

and those with whom we would work again.

We passed, as always, so many walking,

as we left Chiawelo in Soweto.

We were returning to New Redruth,

where the Cornish tin miners were exiled

to grow the gold reefs and shine the diamonds.

We joined the steady rush hour traffic

on the N12 South. Passing the Gleneagles

shopping mall, I saw, on the hard shoulder

of the opposite carriageway, a man,

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WATCHING THE STORM

From Llandwyn Beach we watch – safely, distantly –

rain clouds, across the bay and the beginnings

of the Irish Sea, obscure the coast

and then the three mountain peaks, one by one,

of the Ll?n Peninsula. We hear thunder

trundle on the high ground and rumble

in the valleys, and see lightning fork,

furnace yellow, in the ash grey clouds.

 

Watching a storm at such a calm remove

is like two scholars in faux panama hats

watching the past,

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DOWN THE LINE

For Kira Somach

 

I have regular readers – some I have known

for years, others I will never meet –

on every continent except

Antarctica: a wonder not a boast!

One, an actual friend from long ago,

tells me, via email, that she often reads

some of my poems over the phone

to her father – she in Missouri,

he in Florida: to remind them

of his years working in England,

and her years here becoming a woman.

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THE LION OF KNIDOS

Near one corner of the British Museum’s

Great Court – the largest, roofed, public square

in Europe – the Lion reclines on a plinth.

It was stolen, a couple of years

after the Crimean War, from a ruined

tomb in Turkey. Its limestone body

had once been adorned with marble, its empty

eye sockets with glass to glint in sunlight

and glow in moonlight. Whether because

its pockmarked flanks seem sad or its eyeless face

appears benign visitors are keen to pose

for photos with the beast as backdrop.

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CONVALESCENCE

We drove towards the River Dee – down walled lanes

with rhododendrons festooning the sandstone,

their attic blooms in imperial colours –

to visit a doughty friend convalescing,

from two knee replacements, in Seize The Day,

a recently opened upmarket care home.

 

As we turned into the drive, I realised

that this, long before rebuilding, was where

my mother had first trained to be a nurse –

sixteen, with her friend, Belle. They cared for children

with TB from the Liverpool slums.

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ASYLUM SEEKER

i.m. Samuel Selzer

 

He was never sure if it had been a joke

when the police arrested him for being,

he learned later, Jack the Ripper,

even though the last murder had been

a dozen years before, and he himself

had been eight and far away – or just

a lesson for yet another alien

wandering Whitechapel as if he had

a right to be lost in a pea souper.

 

Fresh from the Hamburg boat docked at Tilbury,

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THE BRIDGE

Where the Menai Straits are at their narrowest,

between two bluffs, Thomas Telford chose to build

his one span suspension bridge, high enough

for tall ships to pass. The two towers,

exposed to the tides, were built of limestone blocks

from the Penmon quarries on the coast

north of here. Caernavon Castle had been built

from Penmon stone – and blocks were shipped to Dublin

to line the Liffey with wharfs and quays.

 

Telford, the ‘Colossus of Roads’, was reared

in penury –

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