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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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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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