This March day is replete with the bright warmth
of spring and ewes bleating for their lambs.
Cropped, walled grass rolls like a green, chequered sea.
The name translates: ‘Hillock of the black grove,
the dark cell’. The sacred trees have gone:
with the Druids, out-run by Rome’s legions;
and the wheat fields, which fed all of Cymru
before the Plantagenets came. High ground
and megalith survive: sign-posted, fenced.
A passage of shale slabs opens on a round
PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS
The sting ray slipped from the azure surface
of the narrow, empty sound, its wings
and tail so large and swimming in the air
for what seemed so long, we stared, speechless,
and, after it had gone, said: ‘Did you see
what I did?’ and looked along the silver beach
for others who’d seen but no one seemed amazed.
MIRABELLA GULF, CRETE
Under the cobalt waters are mermaids,
Minoans, Cretans, Venetians, Turks, Britons,
August ’91, the Gulf War over, Kuwaiti oilwells almost saved,
Kurds beleaguered, Marsh Arabs gassed…
From Schipol’s Duty Free, slow with tourists,
to Immigration at O’Hare, slow with Croatian refugees,
seemed like a long day with an early start…
But for icebergs still loose and multiplying
along Greenland’s uncompromising coast,
the tawny, unmarked miles of tundra,
the empty, unpeopled miles…
The canal dapples the office ceiling.
Upstairs, the fugitives are still as dust.
A siren unpeoples the city.
Into the waiting sky, with the raucous gulls
and the chestnut, her words like breathing…Her life
has turned, beyond all her desires, so
brutally to art…They packed and waited:
beyond, a locked compartment to themselves
and telephone wires curvetting by –
then countrysides of shuddering, noisome wagons.
She died alone.
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.
Walking behind you – your chignon, your tanned
forearms, your calves, your white, pleated skirt
swaying, just the suggestion of that
bottom – into a sunlit pub on
Wenlock Edge for gin and orange and a pint;
watching Macbeth through inexorable
drizzle in a Shropshire market town –
‘It will be rain tonight’. ‘Let it come down’;
drying off in another pub, hearing
someone recite Housman loudly:
‘When smoke stood up from Ludlow…;’
Bernini’s colonnades lead to the centre
of the known world – of hewn porphyry,
of granite kept in its place, of usury.
Irony turns each illuminated page,
celebrates the dissemination
of the word, funds the seeding of Europe
beyond oceans, in jungle, across pampas,
over sierra. Only the clash of
vultures and the seas’ predictable tides
can erase carrion from argent sands.
How light the Saviour is! The Virgin seems
to hold him with such ambivalent ease:
a supplicant offering a sacrifice,
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,