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Poetry – Page 53 – David Selzer – page 53
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UNDER NOVEMBER SKIES

The rain has stopped. We can hear only the wind

and a swollen stream – hidden beneath

the high moor’s golden fern – rush through a culvert

under the road, which glistens, after the shower,

in an unexpected shaft of sunlight.

Rain clouds are blackening the mountains

to the west but northwards, beyond bracken

and gorse that stretches seemingly to land’s edge,

through a gap in the hills, we can see the sea,

a sunny blue, and a white ship sailing east –

too far away to recognise her flags.

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A NEIGHBOURHOOD OF STRANGERS

Buzzards splayed their wingtips against the sun.

A Phantom entered the glacial valley,

its fuselage burning – the pilot

and crewman still at the controls, their choice made.

In school, it was story time – magical

oak woods, changelings secreted. The children

heard a rushing like oceans. Their teacher

saw the fire approach and two young men,

with a hundred years of technology,

burst upon the huddled village’s

common land… Children dreamt of foreign men

gone to dust in a golden fire for a

neighbourhood of strangers.

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PRO PATRIA MORI

As fire storms travel, we are twenty miles

from the marshalling yards at Crewe, some twelve

and a half from a tracking station near

Wardle, sixish from British Nuclear

Fuels at Capenhurst and slightly more than

four from an unspecified RAF

electronic complex in Sealand – which

all must have their numbers on at least

one ICBM in a silo

east of the Urals and/or west of

the Appalachians.  And so, though there may be

nuclear winter in Hoole,

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‘A WINDY DAY’ & ‘A CALM MORNING’

 

A WINDY DAY, J.M.W.TURNER Tabley, the seat of Sir J.F. Leicester

They bought up land, made marriages, dispossessed

tenants and built their fortune on rents.

These commissions mark their zenith. Since then,

the estate has been sold off acre by

acre, piece by piece – one Turner remains,

the other hangs in another museum.

Some things are unchanged: in the distance,

the house’s palladian exterior

in local sandstone, the round turreted

folly on the small island in the lake –

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IN THE COMPASS OF A PALE

With branch, stalk, thorns, by a dry summer’s

overgrowth obscured, in one unkempt border,

a rose – traditional, heart red – bloomed.

Over tall weeds and grasses, tangled, brittle,

I leant to pluck it, found it blown, blooded,

a bouquet of wormy petals – left it

blighted, inviolate. Where the black gate

hinged to the wall banking our garden,

coffin-sized, skeletal leaves gathered,

whispering, stones, stones. Come winter, frost fissured

bricks and luxurious, pitchy earth sprinkled.

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LA CLEF DES CHAMPS

'La Clef Des Champs,' René Magritte, 1936



When the landscape breaks, shards of painted trees,

clouds, turf cascade in crystal slabs onto

the carpet – and the landscape is there still

on the next pane. Over the brow of the rise

are the world’s kingdoms: deserts silenced

by polished bone; uneasy rooms where

sepia furniture flowers; canvas; wood;

the gallery’s wall solid as money –

asservir le bourgeoisie through draughtmanship.

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BEASTLINESS

‘…hardly any Jews!’, The Matabele Campaign 1896,
Colonel R.S.S. Baden-Powell, Methuen, London, 1897


The British in Africa seem always

to have verged on the comical. There was

BP chasing a Matabele girl

through bush. He was ahorse, she on foot.

In tranquillity, he sketched the scene – the girl

bare-footed and -breasted, himself at a

gallop – for publication. She escaped –

but Rhodesia was made safe for Cecil,

the continent for Aids and exploitation.

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THE WAR ON TERROR

 

2001

Riding the F Train that August –

from Queens to Manhattan, Jamaica

Estates to Times Square – were all

of the hues and tongues and tribes and faiths.

Dead at our door, on our return,

wings stretched as if in flight,

lay a hen harrier, a female.

You chose to bury it gently

in the warm September earth.

Five thousand miles away,

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ON THE NATURE OF THINGS

From the terrace at Polesden Lacey, it was

the guttural calls caught our attention –

then sheep flowing fast over rising ground

like a pale yellow banner in the wind,

then the shepherd himself, then his dogs

flattening themselves at his command.

By the time we reached the valley bottom,

the beasts were penned – lambs from ewes,

the latter funnelled for the shearers.

The bleating drowned the whirring of the clippers.

From the high bridge over the Tweed at Kelso,

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

You were here last year in your mother’s womb

at this cottage high above the straits.

Now you grab for buttercups, daisies, clover,

self-heal – and edge toward sleep in the stillness

under the parasol. Ringlet butterflies

flit across the grass. Blackbirds forage

among the mulch of last autumn’s leaves

at the margin where garden and woodlands merge.

A pheasant rattles somewhere out of sight.

Watching over you is a privilege.

Some time since last year,

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