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‘THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE’

Our present government, unfairly perhaps,

is often caricatured as self-serving,

racist and incompetent – and yet,

with a rather modest investment

of taxpayers’ money, has published

a report which may revolutionise

our study of history, showing

not just the costs but the benefits

to victims of great crimes: ‘There is a new

story about the Caribbean

experience which speaks to the slave period

not only being about profit

and suffering but how culturally

African people transformed themselves

into a re-modelled African/Britain.’

 

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FROM THE TERRACE

Begun the year of Waterloo, finished

in that of Peterloo, built on rents

and sugar, this – according to Pevsner –

‘modest’ Palladian mansion sits

on a slope, a belvedere. Mature trees

overhang the erstwhile stable block,

now a spa. The hotel is a venue

for weddings – featured in ‘Bride of the Year’ –

and funerary teas, like today’s in sun.

 

From the terrace, and over the ha-ha,

sheep graze in broad fields hedged with hawthorn,

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APHORISMS AND INDEMNITY: AN IDEA OF AMERICA

For Clive Watkins

 

‘The maker’s rage to order words…’

THE IDEA OF ORDER AT KEY WEST, Wallace Stevens

 

There, as we drove past the Heritage Centre

that once was a medieval  church, on the steps,

among the shoppers and the trippers,

there on a provincial, English street

was a busker with a blue guitar.

 

And I thought of the poem by Wallace Stevens,

who did not drive, and walked to work each day –

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THE TRICKSTER

Whether the same crow as last year has returned

or this is a different crow with the same habits

is as much a metaphysical issue

as a zoological one – whichever

is the case the sequence of events

in the Great Lockdown is being repeated.

Early morning the crow flies in, and places

a piece of bread in the bird bath – where blackbirds

have bathed, and robins sipped; flies off; returns

in hours, and snacks on the marinated bread;

flies off;

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INCONSEQUENTIAL

A long section of the grassy bank beside

the ornamental lake is roped-off –

a pair of Canada Geese is nesting,

the first in the history of the Park

with its long-serving Coots and Mallards.

We sit on a bench and contemplate the geese –

almost as big as Mute Swans; adept

colonisers, considered still, after

three hundred years, non-native; this chance pair

perhaps blown off course between raucous lagoons.

 

We are distracted by raised voices

from the opposite bank –

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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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