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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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BIRTHDAY GIRL UNDER HOUSE ARREST

‘It takes a village to raise a child’ YORUBA PROVERB

 

The rest of us are dressed for January’s

damp chill but she greets us on the driveway in

cool boots, black tights, black skirt, white shirt, and red cloak

Grandma has made for TikTok performances.

She smiles briefly, then gurns. A homemade cake

is brought carefully through the front door,

with candles blazing,  duly blown out.

We sing the song, and mark her eleven years

upon the earth. She is lovely,

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A SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION

In a local church hall we wait,  with fellow

ancients, for our first Pfizer vaccination.

Ours is a generation that has received,

since childhood, the blessings of technology

and science. Though the glitter ball

is stationary and the stage curtains drawn

there are shades still of dancing and pantomimes –

and, in the observation tent outside,

the fifteen minutes is quite jolly,

definitely determined. We humans are

social animals, prone to good causes.

 

We drive home in warm,

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LOCKDOWN

For Fikekahle Dlalisa

 

The casual use of an American

penal term as a figurative cliché

suggests our usual status quo is being

in some sort of custody. In consequence

the clamour of public nonsense rises

about the nature and scope of liberty.

 

Freedom is choice not action. Walking

with a Zulu friend in a busy mall

on the edge of Soweto, “Look,” he said,

“see how people do not crowd each other,

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HINDSIGHT

From Moscow to London, Stockholm to Venice

the world froze at 10, 12, 15 below

for three months. Wine froze in bottles, cows in byres,

and wolves came down to villages scavenging.

Tree trunks shattered. Church bells once rung fractured.

Travellers crossed the Baltic on horse-back,

skaters glided under the Rialto.

 

The War of Spanish Succession was paused

for more clement weather – and regiments

of Swedish soldiers died in Russian blizzards,

ceding victory in the Great Northern War

to Peter the Great almost by default.

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SUN SETTING ON A WINTER’S DAY  

Streaks of greyish cloud above the lovat hills

on the far shore attenuate the sunset

with striations of orange and yellow.

For a moment clouds part, and the sun

radiates a shearing silver like some

Turner landscape, or Wagnerian

allegory. And, as if on cue,

with a suddenness that shocks, amazes,

from the hidden lagoons amongst the reeds,

multiple flocks of geese rise calling, flying

towards the river’s mouth, fluttering shadows

receding into dark.

 

 

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