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OLD EUROPE’S SLOW DEMISE

The day King George died they cancelled Children’s Hour,

and filled the evening with ‘solemn music’.

The day his son-in-law died Gardeners’ World

was cancelled, and the corporate ether filled

with hacks masquerading as historians,

historians as hacks, confidently

exuding contradictory gossip, viz.

his father-in-law ‘feared him’, ‘loathed him’,

‘really respected,’ ‘admired immensely’.

 

The Duke was one of the few men or women

remaining who might have thought of the Hapsburgs,

the Hohenzollerns and the Romanovs

as family,

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PEN BARRAS PASS

At the very top of the pass a crow is perched

on the car park’s dry stone wall. The bird’s

black magnificence is ruffled by the wind.

With two wing beats, as we approach, it lifts off,

above the narrow road down the escarpment,

into the thermals from the valley.

A market town and pastoral farmlands

are hundreds of dizzying feet below.

 

This range of towering hills stretches north

from moors of gorse and heather to the coast

with caravan parks and carousels.

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THE ABUNDANT DARK

Since late February it has barely rained.

The river is low. On the far bank

is an oak, scorched, blackened in last year’s storms.

Some way downstream birdsong seems louder,

the wind’s soughing through the leaves more intense.

Suddenly, between the trees, a wide, white path

of broken stones appears. The river has gone!

Somewhere, in this deceiving landscape,

in this bucolic dingle oceans made,

in this valley of lost industry,

dappled, silvery waters hurry,

like lightning, down limestone swallow holes

into the abundant dark.

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NO PASSAGE LANDWARD

Over time the ridge of the white pebbled beach

at Trwyn Du, Black Point, has risen –

rough tides edging smooth stones up and up.

From the landward hollow the breaking waves

are merely murmurings, and the easterly

a susurration. We climb to the top,

ever more circumspectly, with cautious knees.

 

The shimmering channel – narrow, treacherous –

between the mainland and the lighthouse,

reflects the tower’s shifting black on white.

Every half minute its warning bell tolls.

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MYTHS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

For Alex Cox

 

Alice was awake long, long after midnight

on the last day of that last summer

the family spent at the house on the shore.

She watched the moon rise above Penmaenmawr,

and silver the Conwy estuary,

all the way to the tumbled castle

and the walled town. The light lit the warren

in the sand dunes.  She imagined, lost somewhere

in the marram grass, a pocket watch glinting.

 

***

 

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IN PRAISE OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB

For Steve Crewe

 

A journalist friend of mine in Jakarta

sends me articles online, which, in turn,

I share on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter,

making me seem, after Francis Bacon –

who was purported to have read every

book ever written – the most erudite man

in Europe: an article, for example,

explaining that Plato was right when he claimed

the world is made of cubes, or another

about cougars in Yellowstone Park

occasionally dying from the plague.

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HOME TIME

The ditches along Duttons Lane have been full

much of March – because February-fill-dyke

was mostly dry, almost Spring for days.

The glinting water is dark as black tea,

brown as bitter beer. Along Acres Lane

the hawthorn hedgerows are beginning to green.

 

We park as near the school as we can.

The leafy lane is overflowing with song.

As we walk through the security gates

to join the others waiting – a social mix,

and mainly white –

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THE BROKEN BRANCH

Where the primary school and the houses end

are hawthorn hedges and occasional oaks

on either side of the lane. From the school gates

the leafless trees are an arching, tangled

fretwork – closer each twig is proud, discrete,

vital, sentient. A sudden gust of wind,

or a lightning blow, in one oak tree’s

early growth snapped off a branch, and left an arm

with a claw like a beak. Shut behind the gates

the gradground children have no chance at all

to imagine the stub of a branch a bird,

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A CHORUS OF ZITHERS

The English education system is made

to inculcate compliance – through failure –

with the nation’s stereotyping.

It remains still a work in progress.

For nearly seventy years most learners,

unless they passed an exam at eleven,

would stay in the same council school from four

to twelve, then thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.

When I was seven I attended one

of the last such schools, at the end of our road.

There were two entrances with GIRLS & INFANTS

and BOYS carved in the sandstone lintels,

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ECO-WARRIOR

for Elise Oliver

 

If, when I grow even older than I am

now and were, perhaps, too old to make poems,

I would become a sower of wildflowers.

 

Each year, I would begin with the Narrows,

an ancient path where our street ends –

where children are walked to school, commuters

walk to work, and revellers sway home

caterwauling. Each spring and summer

in the unkempt verges there would be the sight

and scent of Bird’s-foot Trefoil,

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