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AT GAYTON SANDS

Dee Estuary, Gayton ©SCES 2009



The sands now are out in the estuary

beyond a multitude of reeds and a

labyrinth of runnels, nearer Wales than

England. We walk along the old sandstone

seawall, side by side, looking up as we talk

towards that startling, empty horizon

– midway between Point of Air and Hilbre.

What confidence in the future to build

a sea defence as far as the next parish!

We make way for joggers and dog walkers:

at Cottage Lane,

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SUMMERS OF VIOLENCE

He came in winter, buzzing by the stove.

She fed him crumbs and butter. She was very

lonely. She liked his talk of summer,

grew perceptive as a fly. But in June,

when she still saw nothing, she squeezed her fist

and heard him scream. “I am the universal

suffering man, a sacrifice in

an empty room, reduced to a shadow

on a public wall, tearing my way

to the top in the bathhouse.” She called him

Gabriel. The night she was born bombs blitzed seeds

in her brain, 

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SOUTHGATE, JOHANNESBURG, NOVEMBER 2002

At dawn, a white jogger ran along a side road

beyond the budget hotel’s high, spiked railings.

So the neighbourhood was safe. But for whom?

Later, beneath the barbed wire topped wall

of the dentist’s opposite – a notice warned

of armed response – half a dozen or so black men gathered

in ones and twos. Some had crude boards announcing

their crafts:  brick layer, gardener. Sometimes a pick-up stopped.

The men moved forward. There was talk with the baas.

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MY UNCLE TOM

With the six o’clock news on Thursdays,

Uncle Tom, smelling of sweat and sawdust, brought

the Dandy – and the Beano! Unlooked-for,

like a lodger, in the bare, spared room over

the hall of brasses and ‘Off Valpariso’,

bachelor Tom had no more substance

than Lord Snooty or Desperate Dan.

He had been gassed twice and died of bronchitis

the year the King died of cancer. I lost

his chisels, which he honed but never used,

one by one in the garden.

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REVELATIONS

Marooned for three years, Ben Gunn was

‘sore for Christian diet’. He dreamt of cheese,

toasted mostly.

Doctor Livesey always had about him

a piece of Parmesan in a snuffbox.

When he heard about the dreams, he said,

‘Well, that’s for Ben Gunn!’

But we never find out if the ‘half mad maroon’ savours

the King of Cheeses.

Maybe he eats it and thinks of Cheddar.

I was walking up the Farnham Road in Slough.

I passed an off-licence run by Sikhs,

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UN DIMANCHE APRES-MIDI À L’ÎLE DE LA GRANDE JATTE

'A Sunday afternoon on La Grande Jatte', Georges Seurat, 1884



The trombonist will blow unnoticed. Much is absurd:

a monkey, women in bustles, the brass player.

The bourgeoisie reflects in post-prandial

tranquillity… Purges, coronations in Paris,

the metropolis of revolution, where Haussman’s

boulevards were an imperial stockade…

For two sous, the ferry transports Georges Seurat

across the Seine to the Ile de La Grande Jatte. Two years’

preparation, observation of colour, shape,

application of theory delineate an

historical moment,

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THE SWELLIES, AFON MENAI, ST VALENTINE’S DAY

Lovers are as mariners, navigators

in crowded, intricate sea lanes of

momentary loathing and lasting passion.

Pilots guided vessels into the straits:

from the north, between Trwyn-du’s dark rocks

and the wicked sands of Dutchman Bank;

from the south, between Abermenai

and Fort Belan over the Caernavon Bar;

and then through The Swellies – Pwll Ceris,

‘Pool of Love’ – where the surging high tides whirl

round Ynys Gored Goch, the wild waves

tawny and their foam white as drifting snow.

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THE MEMORIES OF SLAVES

On Overton Hill, an obelisk

in local sandstone marks the parish war dead.

Fresh graffiti partly obscure Worrall,

Egerton, Massey – names of Cheshire gentry,

villages, labourers. There is a solace

in landscapes, remorseless historians.

Below the hill, the town becomes a toy.

To the horizon, are laid out the pricey,

strategic illusions: refineries

distilling forests and the wide, poisoned

river narrowing to an ashen,

urban haze of broken streets, redundant wharves,

the memories of slaves.

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POETIC JUSTICE

A wishful thinking editor re-spelt

my name with a T and changed a poem’s

final words from ‘a tramp woman nurses

an infant/under a tumbling sky’ to

‘under a trembling sky’. Humbling to find

an editor’s chance(?) choice of epithet

happier than mine own! Mine was truer.

One winter night, I was changing trains at Crewe

and a red faced fellow traveller

sang, “…not her beauty alone. ‘Twas the truth

in her eye made me love the Rose of Tralee”.

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DINAS BRÂN, LLANGOLLEN

'Castell Dinas Bran', Richard Wilson, circa 1771



The path zigzags upwards to the keep, like

smoke or a hare hounded. Magpies lowfly

the gorse, bank to a clump of pine, barks pink

as coral. Ravens wheel. Birds and the wind

disdain the ruins peasants carted, raised,

razed and thieved. Before allegiances, walls

was this hill, that vast, limestone precipice

and, everywhere, silent, ancient waters.

Whoever sees the turf worn with walkers’

traffic and earth’s crust shining,

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