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We have moved once to accommodate the tide

on this August strand, crowded with many

who otherwise would have been in the Algarve

or on some island in the Aegean.

At least the sands are free this year of the Christians

whose jocular misanthropy of games

of tug o’ war takes up so much space.


High tide is still nine minutes away,

and the beach here rises just perceptibly –

but ramparts have gone, and a castle keep.

Someone has placed a child’s spade in the sand

guessing where the flow will end,



At the edge of the waves, as the tide flows

and the beach is gradually deserted,

a young woman wearing a hijab,

dressed for a rainy day at the seaside,

watches, concerned, as her grandfather,

a perfunctory beard on his long

Mughal chin, smiling, with horn-rimmed glasses,

in his Ralph Lauren green and white polo shirt,

trousers rolled high, up to his knees in water,

using a Kashmiri technique he has seen

on YouTube, casts – into the sky –



The purple, jagged rocks on the island’s shore

were molten lava from volcanoes –

mere craters for aeons now – across the straits,

and limestone boulders in the hinterland

the slow detritus of the last ice age.


RAF Typhoons have flown from their air base,

ten miles or so from here, every day,

leaving the island with their stormy thunder,

over the mountainous Llyn Peninsula

out into the north east Atlantic,

as if it were quite another sea.



At the end of a dull August afternoon,

two little girls, sisters perhaps, in hijabs,

and a stocky boy of ten or so,

and two women, probably their mother

and grandmother, dressed in woollen hijabs

and abayas, are preparing to picnic.

They lay out a tartan rug, and Tesco bags,

on that part of the Green closed to vehicles:

between the low stone wall – beyond which

is the narrow walk along the sea wall,

and occasional notices of bye laws

strictly prohibiting the feeding of gulls –



Caernavon Bay is below, and to the west

the Irish Sea. The restive winds and waves

are lulled now to a breath, to a swell.

In the distance the London-Holyhead train

crosses the causeway. A multi-decked ferry

from Dublin is entering the harbour.


After the Druids hid, and the Romans left,

there came a multitude of saints, mostly

martyrs, not infrequently princesses,

renowned in death for healing the heart’s anguish.

St Gwenfaen – ‘Blessed White Rock’ –



As usual Uncle Tacko is trundling

his Flea Circus to the end of the pier,

and the Island Princess is embarking

for a trip up the Straits and around

Ynys Seiriol with its nesting puffins,

its elderberry woodland purpling.

And the dogged chambers of my heart, open

and close, open, close, like an harmonium.


All the familiar sounds – the Flea Circus crowd,

the paddlers in the pool, the revellers

on the hotel lawn next door –



For Annabel Honor-Lissi


In those stark dreams when sleep shades into waking,

dreams that haunt the light like a taste in the mouth,

or a name half-remembered, half-forgotten,

I am always travelling – this dawn

along the black tops and the turnpikes,

from the Texas Panhandle north east

to Casco Bay, Maine. Ahead is the thought

of moments, or a non-stop two day drive:

from the sun-belt’s stubborn, garish pandemic;

via the fame of Dallas,



I listened to Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.

I liked the keys’ silver superstructure,

and the ebony stick with its subtle bell,

and its tones – mellow, lustrous, shrill, caressing.

So, to and from school, I chose to pass

a second-hand shop with a clarinet

on display in its eclectic window.

I saved for a year. ‘No,’ said the man. Next day

it was gone from the display forever.


My daughter took up the instrument

unprompted. Her daughter has followed.



If Ezekiel’s watchman, or, rather, God’s

had been on the job there would have been

some sort of heads-up – a cornet perhaps

if not a fanfare – that the Parish Church clock,

put in place in 1867,

would be chiming again, hours and quarters,

this summer morning. But it just happens –

almost surreptitiously, like some

member of the chorus in an opera

sneaking on late from the wings. And late it is

by a few minutes – as before it was fast.



Days after we had travelled east of Eden

we invented clowning and slapstick,

juggling and tumbling, magic and music,

and idleness to ease our banishment

from Paradise. So, for ninety minutes,

in this rare and aerial space of changelings

and kaleidoscopes, we watch acrobats

and clowns, conjurors and knife throwers turn back

the epochs as if pages in a book.


Like a sudden rush of snare drums, a brief

and heavy shower accompanies

the finale –