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APPLES AND PEARS

For Alison and Georgia Robson

 

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.’ Isaac Newton

 

The ancient pear tree next door has not been pruned,

I would guess, for at least seventy years,

long before our time here, or the neighbours’.

It is now as large as a medium-sized oak,

with the remains of a magpie’s nest.

Its fruit, in these last days of summer, glow

a ruddy green; are plentiful,

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DESTINATIONS & DESTINIES

Driving on education business to Crewe,

a quarter of a century ago,

I stopped for petrol on the Nantwich Road,

and there in a rack with Blur, Celine Dion

and Bon Jovi was Fred Astaire, Volume 2.

How my life changed! So many favourites

on one disc! I put the CD in the slot,

drove off the forecourt, and pressed the switch.

‘Heaven, I’m in heaven, And my heart beats

so that I can hardly speak, And I seem

to find the happiness I seek When

we’re out together dancing,

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AUTUMN

When I return with mugs of peppermint tea

you are asleep in the October sunshine –

a fallen golden birch leaf at your feet,

a last wasp buzzing in your shadow.

We have grown old together, ancient

in our ways. But age is a wrinkled

masquerade. ‘Old clothes upon old sticks

to scare a bird,’ as Yeats wrote, at sixty,

a mere stripling. We seem sole survivors

of our youth and prime – so many dead

have fallen by the way.

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ROSEBUD

‘It is the most humble day of my life,’ Rupert Murdoch

 

Beech trees, in full leaf, more than a hundred years

high in the park a street away from here,

rise sheer like raggedy cliffs, a last hurrah

of pragmatic philanthropy – like Rome

before the fall – amid the indifferent

splendour of empire: town halls designed

like palaces, museums like town halls.

It dies spluttering in Flanders mud, choking

in dugouts on Gallipoli’s cliffs.

 

Rupert Murdoch’s dad,

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CONFUSED ALARMS

One of my favourites poems is Dover Beach.

I read it first at school when I was fifteen.

It seemed a fine thing to have written –

evocative, erudite, sonorous,

personal. Matthew Arnold, the advocate

of ‘sweetness and light’, honeymooned abroad

the year of the Great Exhibition.

Returning to England they stayed the night

at the Lord Warden Hotel – before taking

the train to London – no doubt to recover

from the paddle steamer that ferried them

across the English Channel,

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ON BENLLECH BEACH 2020

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,

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THE NET

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 –

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MAM CYMRU

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.

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THE PICNIC

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 –

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AT ROSCOLYN

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’ –

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