Poetry

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Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire
Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire

 

After the fluorescent shops and the snatched music,

the side street was damp and dark –

but a bag of chips and a manipulative adult

made the emptiness freedom.

 

Waterways were trawled and the usual,

time-dishonoured suspects questioned.

Down river, high tides returned her nine year old body.

 

The funeral cortège was a carriage and horses

and the local press was effulgent.

But gossip condemned her single mother,

living in a hostel on benefit.

 

The killer lived two floors down,

an estranged father of daughters –

a violent drunk, unemployed, unschooled.

 

Victim, mother and murderer

threaten the equivocal city.

Losers and losing

challenge its achievements.

 

Death is only one result of murder.

Remember sweet Fanny Adams – mutilated,

immortalised, profaned  unthinkingly!

 

The murder and rape of children

seem beyond words, understanding,  iniquity

– and another’s lack of love or the  means to love

is out of our  grasp, lost beyond finding.

 

 

 

CHILDREN’S HOUR

About teatime, when the coals were glowing

liquid orange and cream, strands of soot

would catch on the fireback,

flickering like torches in a forest.

And behind the wireless’ fretwork facade

the valves were alight with Uncles and Aunties,

soothing, articulate, evocative and refined,

bringing us safely to the Weather and the News.

We listened to the same wonders, you and I,

tuned the static and the soot to pre-pubescent stories,

sensing there was something else

beyond the sideboard.

What if we could have been told –

by a clairvoyant Romany perhaps? –

that, out in the ether,

there was someone we would want to love forever.

 

 

 

EZRA POUND IN VENICE

‘But the worst mistake I made was that stupid suburban prejudice of anti-semitism.’ Ezra Pound

 

Sitting in a traghetto, Olga Rudge

from Ohio and Ezra Pound from

Idaho – together fifty years,

from concert violinist to poet’s helpmate,

poet maker to fascist propagandist,

he, typically, with stick, wide brimmed hat,

floppy collar, she, wearing woollen gloves,

left hand clutching a large, canvas bag, right hand

a carefully folded scarf, dressed, like any

elderly woman, for a chilly day –

look away separately into the distance.

Five years before Pound’s death, Allen Ginsberg,

from New Jersey, on a sort of Grand Tour,

kissed him on the cheek and forgave him,

on behalf of the Jews, for his ‘mistake’.

‘Do you accept my blessing?’ asked Allen.

‘I do’, said Ezra. What closure! What chutzpah!

Held in a cage in Pisa, lit day and night,

jeered at as a traitor and a coward

by GIs who had battled from the south,

he wrote: ‘What thou lovest well remains,

the rest is dross’.

 

 

 

A SHORT HISTORY

a-short-history-skulls_new

For a generation, like weather cocks,
their skeletons swung near the highway.
James Price and Thomas Brown had robbed the Mail.
Years turned. The Gowy flooded and the heath
flowered. Travellers noted the bones
hanging in chains by the Warrington road.
Justices ordered the gibbet removed,
the remains disposed of. In Price’s skull,
while Napoleon was crossing the Alps
or Telford building bridges or Hegel
defining Historical Necessity
or Goya painting Wellington’s portrait,
a robin made its nest.

 

 

Note: this piece has been subsequently published in ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks’ – http://www.armadillocentral.com/general/a-jar-of-sticklebacks-by-david-selzer

 

 

 

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UNBIDDEN

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unbidden

Photograph: ‘Aber Falls’ – ©Sylvia Selzer 2000

 

Anger, despair – torrential, unstoppable –
possesses me, unprompted. Undeserved,
you suffer it like hail. It leaves no signs.
Your heart is adamant, ever yielding.

Rainwater, falling on the marshy uplands,
courses through the thick glacial veneer –
beneath the main road near the chip shop,
past second homes and holiday lets,
under the promenade and by the pub –
onto the beach and into the oceans.

Safe behind glass, from our rented apartment,
white and spare like a sepulchre or a flag,
we watch a storm rise far out at sea then roll
inexorably towards us, obscuring
all – and hammer on our window like a door.

At low tide, we walk along the sands and round
the headland, rooks rising in clacking dudgeon
from the high rocks. In the wide estuary,
a solitary egret fishes. Returning,
at high tide, through littoral woods of elder
and ash, we walk at the foot of the sandstone cliffs –
rainwater flowing from fissures, seeping
into silent pools edged by ferns and fronds.

On the horizon: a warship anchors
at the ebb in Holyhead’s sea roads;
Manx is a stretch of cloud; and the Great Orme
the sea serpent the first Norsemen named it,
half submerged, sleeping or waiting.

 

 

 

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‘EAST END GIRL, DANCING THE LAMBETH WALK’: BILL BRANDT

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the-lambeth-walk

‘East end girl, dancing the Lambeth WalkBill Brandt, 1939

 

He’s set it up, of course. Or, rather, framed it.
There’d be no feigning this young woman’s delight
in being ‘free and easy’ and doing
‘as you darn well pleasy’. She’s got her best blouse on,
with shoulder puffs, her sister’s shoes, which fit her now,
black ankle socks and shoulder length, unpermed hair
freshly washed – and waved, probably with Kirby grips.
Doin’ the walk, she lifts the hem of her skirt,
revealing her slip – and smiles coquettishly.

Beside her is a line, a queue almost of
female acolytes. (The only boy looks away).
They’re pre-pubescent, excited, nervous at what they see:
grown up clothes, shapely legs, unimaginable bust,
a sensuousness that, unwilled, will be theirs.

Down the street of terraced houses, symmetrical
as barracks, a woman strides, her back turned
on this miracle: a girl who knows
she will never grow old – ‘Any ev’ning,
any day…Doin’ the Lambeth Walk.’ Oi!

 

 

 

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