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Poetry – Page 55 – David Selzer – page 55
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A BOOK OF HOURS

 

'Fevrier' from Les Tres Riche Heures du Duc De Berry

'Février' from Les Tres Riche Heures du Duc De Berry

 

July

We are rather formally attired

for country pursuits in the ducal woods;

August

me with a tie and you, I uncover,

with white suspenders and matching knickers.

September

Intimate stranger, forever touching

for your least kindness, forever surprising;

October

unpredictable as light,

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DULCE DOMUM

Built well before the Mahdi sacked Khartoum,

like a ledger or the Church of England

our house is square, accommodating. Swifts,

each May, pronounce their southern benison

on ashlar cornerstones and dead masons…

A butterfly, lost in the wintry cellar,

seems closed as death but wings part knowingly.

O peacock eyes, how you seduce from purpose

and time! Imperial birds cry harshly

in paper gardens… At dusk, in indigo,

swifts dissolve. The house is white, seems solid

as a steamship.

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THE FALL OF EUROPE

The Assassin

The Assassin

Lucheni had waited all day in the pines

above the lake. When she passed, he begged.

Her equerry dismissed him. As always,

self-absorbed, she saw nothing: an anarchist

with a grand and personal design.

On the quayside at Geneva, a week

later, Lucheni, the labourer,

stabbed Elizabeth, Empress of Austria,

with a homemade knife. Her husband foresaw,

like her assassin, anarchy: armies

entrenching in Bohemia;

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ORPHEUS

The high windows caught the sky, varicose,

livid. The house was empty, unlived-in.

He hurried down wide paths strewn with rose petals,

wind-culled and faded. He searched borders,

bushes, her features imaged and snared in shapes

of angled branch and thorn, an orange sun

searing gun-metal clouds, the fountain sprouting

papery leaves, its bronze boy greening alone.

Ivy’s grasp crumbled artifice, obscured

the basin inscribed with a sonnet.

Soughing of breath or the wind in the arbour

summoned him into its close.

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CHUZPAH

A nor’ easterly blew – over Dutchman Bank –

on the front at Beaumaris, so we had

our chips, fish and mushy peas in the Vectra,

watching the ebb tide slowly, slowly expose

the furrowed gold of the Lavan Sands

and the cormorants and oyster catchers

skim the waves, when, suddenly, a herring gull,

that voracious omnivore, that frequenter

of rubbish tips and landfills – the colours

of its plumage pristine, as if painted –

landed on our bonnet and,

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ALIASES

The Lenin Statue, the new FSB (aka Cheka, NKVD, KGB) HQ  and a new church supported, in part, by Mars pet foods. ©SCES 2000

The Lenin Statue, the new FSB (aka Cheka, NKVD, KGB) HQ and a new church supported, in part, by Mars pet foods. ©SCES 2000



We remembered the newsreels with Uncle Joe

aka Koba the only one in grey,

so expected a black and white city.

But the colours astound us, beguile.

From our apartment – which used to be bugged –

we overlook what used to be October Square.

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AFTER THE RIOTS

A skyline as idiosyncratic

as Manhattan’s,  Chicago’s – its totems

of wealth, faith and dominion – belies

the city’s cruelty: fortunes from famine,

despotism, slavery; licensing

of squalor, bigotry and despair.

In the park where the Orange Lodge drummed out

The Twelfth, a rape was immediate headlines –

white girl, black youths. In Toxteth – its decayed

squares and terraces built on molasses

and cotton, some street signs repainted green,

gold, red, the colours of Rastafari –

was daubed,

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THE LAST REFUGE

‘Two bald men fighting over a comb…’ José Luis Borges

Almost always, winds blew – over heath and sheep.

Seas swelled southward – to ice, minerals.

Mapped, the islands seemed like green spume: a tattered

standard blown west. That bleak solitude

was Arthur Ransome country – The Camp,

Tumbledown Mountain – naive, single minded,

like the Falkland Flightless Steamer duck…

Larger than Greenland, smaller than India,

Argentina did not exist.

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ONLY ONE IN STEP

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Plato's Allegory of the Cave


Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is

somehow very ‘Thirties: lots of chaps in

the dark behind high walls; much shadow-play

with unidentifiable voices;

belated, blinding suddenness of light.

The decade’s putative worthies (who all,

by the way, seem to have been chaps) go forth

unknowingly in parallel: e.g.

Hitler in Berchtesgarten, Wittgenstein

(Adolf’s erstwhile peer from Linz) in Cambridge.

Did Wittgenstein walk with Blunt, Philby,

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THE DISGUISED REPUBLIC

For Mark Chapman, PPC

So well is our real government concealed, that if you tell a cabman to drive to ‘Downing Street’ he most likely will never have heard of it…It is only a ‘disguised republic’, which is suited to such a being as the Englishman in such a century as the nineteenth.

THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION, Walter Bagehot, 1867.

HM’s Garden Parties turn the Bagehot trick,

showing GB as it really, really is:

the Law, the Cloth, clerks,

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