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MANY A SUMMER

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 –

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DRIVING INTO THE DARK

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,

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THE CLARINET

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.

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THE BANDED DEMOISELLE

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.

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CIRCUS

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 –

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THE LAST TASMANIAN TIGER….

…though striped in part was not, in fact, a tiger,

or feline in any way, but related

to the kangaroo, so a marsupial,

with a head and muzzle a bit like a bear’s,

and the dimensions of an Alsatian dog.

Somebody named him Benjamin – a joke

probably: the last of Jacob’s sons,

and Israel’s progenitor. Some footage

survives, in black and white, of the animal

in his small, bleak cage in Hobart Zoo.

The newsreel’s pompous and slightly smarmy

voice-over,

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THE GREAT UNCONFORMITY

A couple of weeks into the Great Lockdown –

robins nesting in the ivy, wild bees

in the eaves, as usual – we were

visited one day by a carrion crow,

its feathers of a blackness beyond

perfection, clinkered armour buffed bright.

It landed, the size of a large cat,

on our modest bird bath beside the lilies

beginning to burgeon. In its beak

was a portion-sized piece of baguette

or ciabatta, which it dropped in the water,

then flew off.

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WHAT THE HEART REMEMBERS

A young girl is reading in a white armchair.

On the crimson tablecloth is a pink rose

in a glass of water. (She has kept the bloom

from when she was weaving flowers – its petals

superfluous to her design). The book

she is reading she first read three years ago,

when she was seven: its themes – of childhood,

and alchemy, and unambiguous frontiers

only beyond which evil thrives – enclose like

the high arms of her chair, though she is tall,

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THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: WINDOWS OF DISCOURSE

‘The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate’. THE COMMON GOOD, Noam Chomsky

 

A dormouse, leaping into a boiling cauldron,

leaps out, protesting. Some others, resting,

with breathing apparatus, trustingly

at the bottom of a pot of water

arctic-cold,

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ALPHABET

On the south west coast of the peninsula,

among Mount Sinai’s arid sandstone foothills,

beneath the stoops of falcons and the gyres

of eagles, where quail and grouse migrate,

and ibex graze on sparse thorn bushes,

where Moses might have berated the Twelve Tribes,

near the temple ruins of Hathor, goddess

of fertility and a golden calf,

are the rubbled remains of turquoise mines.

 

The Pharaohs prized the stones bluer than skies.

Canaanite prisoners of war worked the seams –

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