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A COMMONPLACE

The succulent, bright green shoots of early spring;

the blackthorn – on distant hedgerows like

sporadic late frost or, close to, pearls

of scattered barley; the tiny goldcrest

with its mighty voice – see see see, see see see:

presage the summer’s rich beneficence.

 

This is her second spring. She points with wonder

and joy at a sudden breeze that shakes

the cherry tree, disturbs its white petals

against the bluest sky, the brightest sun.

She is walking now –

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AT JODRELL BANK

The radio telescope trundles on rails

in a landscape of dairy cows and ponds,

tuning into the dispersing cosmos.

The universe is replete with sound. We

fill it with meaning and impedimenta.

Star sailors embark on metaphor

and intricate engines. We record

the energy of suns dead longer than

dinosaurs. We listen to stars yet

tolerate hunger – and we stare still

into the black wonder of starry nights.

Like addicts, we exploit experience.

The ether is redolent with humankind,

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A WEDDING

From the spoil heaps of the redundant gold mines,

when the wind blows, the dirt blows always

over Soweto. In a flapping marquee

at the end of a street, the wedding took place.

Aperitif nibbles became gritty,

paper cloths grimy, the cutlery

silhouetted in grit. There were many

speeches – long before guests ate the freshly

slaughtered lamb and even longer before

the singing and dancing. The hired canvas drummed

with hope, humour, courage, enterprise, joy.

 

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WHICH PASSETH UNDERSTANDING

With wind soughing in the churchyard yews,

lichen marking the gravestones of labourer

and landowner, Saxon foundations,

mediaeval tower, sunlight fitful

through worthy Victorian stained glass,

a brass plaque for ‘those who gave their lives’,

the wheezy organ, the orotund Order

for the Burial of the Dead, ‘I am the

resurrection and the life…’ the vicar’s

gentle eulogy of the deceased,

one is almost tempted to wish God

were in his heaven where ‘we shall all

be changed…in the twinkling of an eye’

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SOMETHING OF SUMMER

While, at the last outpost of its empire,

a blackbird sounds reveille and, next door,

red admirals repose in buddleia,

something of summer, caught in the early air

and gathered, a lightness, perfumed, bold,

is touching narrow, walled-in gardens

where, high over houses epochs old,

wood pigeons flute in maples and a thrush,

lost in the snows of a pear tree, cuts notes

like glass. Neglected blossom lights

along the chipped and blackened bricks, a rush

of scent from satiny blooms,

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EZRA POUND IN VENICE



‘But the worst mistake I made was that stupid suburban prejudice of anti-semitism.’ Ezra Pound


Sitting in a traghetto, Olga Rudge

from Ohio and Ezra Pound from

Idaho – together fifty years,

from concert violinist to poet’s helpmate,

poet maker to fascist propagandist,

he, typically, with stick, wide brimmed hat,

floppy collar, she, wearing woollen gloves,

left hand clutching a large, canvas bag, right hand

a carefully folded scarf, dressed, like any

elderly woman,

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‘EAST END GIRL, DANCING THE LAMBETH WALK’: BILL BRANDT

 

'East End Girl, Dancing The Lambeth Walk' Photo by Bill Brandt




He’s set it up, of course. Or, rather, framed it.

There’d be no feigning this young woman’s delight

in being ‘free and easy’ and doing

‘as you darn well pleasy’. She’s got her best blouse on,

with shoulder puffs, her sister’s shoes, which fit her now,

black ankle socks and shoulder length, unpermed hair

freshly washed – and waved,

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THE HEART’S TESTIMONY

I am a gumshoe tailing mortality,

a shammus staking out history,

death’s sleuth. The past has bequeathed itself,

its deceiving legacy of meanings.

Here is the evidence, thronging the cramped,

provincial streets – the line of a wall,

family remembrance, an ancient name.

Before terraces and villas, before

canal and railway, under pavements

and metalled roads, beneath fields is lost heathland,

a forsaken brook. There are only stones

and ghosts and the heart’s testimony – childhood,

ambition,

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FAR ABOVE RUBIES

The silence woke her. Beyond the locked door

by now her maids should be chattering

in that harsh tongue. She went to the window.

Even the gulls on the battlements were mute.

And no guards on the ramparts, nobody

in the bailey. The straits were the colour

of the emerald at her neck – her father’s

wedding gift. A barque moved edgily

through the sands. Its pennants spoke of home.

The island’s coast was clear in the sun.

She imagined the light summer wind

stirring its fecund,

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THE EMBRACE OF NOTHING



i

Rome’s legionnaires quarried its sandstone cliffs

and Ptolemy put the Dee on the map.

William the Conqueror, in winter,

force-marched his army over the Pennines

to reach the river and waste the town – the last

to submit.  For eighteen years, Prince Gryfyd

ap Cynan, shut in the keep, heard only

the river’s voice, dyfrdwy, dyfrdwy.

Parliament’s forces sent fire rafts downstream

to purge besieged citizens. On its banks,

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