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A CHEESE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Marooned for three years, Ben Gunn was

‘sore for Christian diet’. He dreamt of cheese,

toasted mostly.

 

Doctor Livesey always had about him

a piece of Parmesan in a snuffbox.

When he heard about the dreams he said,

‘Well, that’s for Ben Gunn!’

 

But we never find out if the ‘half mad maroon’ savours

the King of Cheeses. Maybe he eats it –

and wishes it were Cheddar.

 

 

Note: This poem is a slightly revised version of  part of REVELATIONS,

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IN CAMERA

The colour scheme, all of the fittings, even

the rectangular reproduction,

above the bed, of an abstracted landscape

that might be desert or water, sunrise

or dusk reflected in the wardrobe’s mirror

were exact replicas of all those

he had already seen in all the rooms

he had stayed in the centre of cities,

on the edge of towns, at all compass points.

 

There was always, however, one difference –

the view. Through the sealed, double-glazed window

he could see an empty office block

with one blind still drawn on the sixth floor.

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INSPIRATION

Turning down the steep lane to the strand,

I felt that tightening of the legs and saw

the hedgerows of convolvulus and woodbine

descend serpentine to the wide, empty bay…

 

…it might be a couple of bars of music,

the way the light falls, a voice in the street,

some words in a book, whatever it might be

it becomes as real, as substantial

as a taste, a smell, a sound, something

that must be made, words that must be written…

 

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THE TAXIDERMY

In a one storey Gothic-kitsch building

with small steeples – where Abbey Road meets

Mill Street – attached to the Bridge End Hotel,

opposite the pelican crossing,

angled on the corner of Wharf Hill

that leads steeply up to the canal

and, over the narrow, hump-backed bridge,

left to Ysgol Dinas Brân and right

through the sheep fields and onto the hills

there is an eclectic bestiary:

the hare about to box, the barn owl roosting,

the erect meerkat,

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‘ANOTHER PLACE’ REVISITED AT LOW WATER

‘It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body

of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe.’ Anthony Gormley

 

They are still standing and their slow carapace

of barnacles breathes. Small pools of eaten

razor clams and star fish lie at their feet – fry

dart amongst seaweed fronds and the dead.

An off shore breeze brings the calls of distant

sea birds close. The RNLI flag stiffens

and plastic kites,

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VALENTINE WEATHERS

January is like navigating

ice floes – then eventually heading east

for aromatic landfalls, or west

following the setting sun, or south

for the long haul like some latter day Cook,

journeying without guides into foreign parts.

 

The first port of call is in February.

Love fills the sails, the swell lifts the bow.

We met one July, married one August.

In May our daughter will be fifty one.

The bow lifts in the swell, the canvas fills with love.

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AFTER DINNER

We had finished the baked camembert

and begun to talk of the future

when we heard a dog fox bark up on the Downs

and went quickly into the garden.

The moon was full, large and low. The imagined,

fabricated constellations glimmered

in the polluted air. The fox was silent

or gone softly over the flints and the chalk

and all we had was the memory

of that wild sound across the long years

of settlement – like the echo of a star.

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CARROG

It was an iron hard January Sunday

before dawn when I left Bala – that one street,

Bible town – for the first time and forever,

a white fiver in the lining of my coat.

I shut up the rented, furnished cottage,

putting the key through the letter box.

I heard it rattle on the slate floor,

and walked down the dark track to the high street

with its single gas lamp. I had my father’s

cardboard suitcase for my clothes, my mother’s

worn music satchel for my poems.

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OPUS 40

…not Chopin’s Polonaise in A Major

that played on Radio Warsaw as

the Polish Cavalry fought the Panzers

nor the sculpture park in New York State

but a tree-lined business park for IBM

on the edge of Warwick, medieval stronghold

of Earl Richard Neville, the King Maker,

next to the town cemetery discrete

behind a hedgerow of hawthorn and yew,

with the Grand Union Canal nearby

and its Hatton Flight of locks, twenty one in

two miles, opened in 1799

when Chopin was not even a twinkle

and the six nations of the Iroquois –

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THE OFFICE OF THE DEAD

The ruined, twelfth century limestone chapel

is Grade II Listed and the land owned

by the Welsh Assembly otherwise

it would have been converted into

somebody’s desirable holiday home

with views south through the empty windows

to woods and north down the moor’s sheep-cropped slope

across the sweeping, wind-surfing bay.

 

Who built the original chapel –

and the small side chapel with a vault

in the sixteenth century – or for what

specific purpose no one now knows.

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