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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 SAME SHARED GROUND

Dee Estuary from Gayton Sands. © Sylvia Selzer 2009.


Larks and herons rise from the same shared ground –

a salt-marsh sprinkled with scurvy grass

like early snow. A navigable channel

is impossibly distant, far-off as

childhood’s spring tides. Silt obscured endeavour.

Sailors and milkmaids and priests lie low

as the worked-out coal seams. Glaciers made this –

ice miles, thick as centuries, combing valleys,

teasing out hills, a slow explosion

of seas. I imagine,

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CONFEDERATE CEMETERY, ALTON, ILLINOIS

All of the names of the dead are Celtic

or English. Most of them died – in the prison

near the river –  from typhoid rather than wounds.

Nobody set out to be cruel – farmers’

sons killing farmers’ sons. Their graveyard

above the bluffs was grassed, an obelisk built,

their names cast in bronze, bolted to limestone.

From the highway, there is no signage.

Eagles winter on the  bluffs. America’s heart

is green and fecund: a confluence –

Illinois,

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VIRTUALLY BIRDLESS IN ASSISI

The Dodo, Ustad Mansur, Agra, 1610

The Dodo, Ustad Mansur, Agra, 1610

 

 

 

For Sarah:  always a conservationist, latterly a twitcher.

                                 i

In Umbria – the cuore verde of pristine, wooded hills,

Orvieto’s honey-pale wines,

the paintings of Perugino and Pisano,

the Tiber’s milky jade,

tartufo nero

they stew thrush.

 

ii

At least once in our suburban garden,

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THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS

Blondin carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on a tightrope.

Blondin carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on a tightrope.

Witness The Great Wallenda, an aging

high wire artiste, who, for his final act,

required technology’s summation –

tv, automobiles, bottles of plasma;

crossed a canyon on cable thin as a wrist;

walked on wire a quarter of a mile

above the earth. He stood, twice, on his head

and the crowds of thousands gasped, then cheered,

the noise muffled in that oh! profound gorge.

 

 

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WE PRISONERS

A lark starting from the heather; a lamb

amazed by a heron; a hare gutted

at a turn in the road; the familiar path

obscured by fern, bramble, convolvulus:

the gallery in my head is open

all hours – by turns, thriving and derelict.

The sparrow in my chest, where my heart lay,

now flings itself at broken panes, now stills.

At the end of the pier, where steamships docked,

black-headed gulls and anglers watch and wait.

The steel-faced laughing man will read our stars.

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LOST

Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire

Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire

 

After the fluorescent shops and the snatched music,

the side street was damp and dark –

but a bag of chips and a manipulative adult

made the emptiness freedom.

 

Waterways were trawled and the usual,

time-dishonoured suspects questioned.

Down river, high tides returned her nine year old body.

 

The funeral cortège was a carriage and horses

and the local press was effulgent.

But gossip condemned her single mother,

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CHILDREN’S HOUR

About teatime, when the coals were glowing

liquid orange and cream, strands of soot

would catch on the fireback,

flickering like torches in a forest.

And behind the wireless’ fretwork facade

the valves were alight with Uncles and Aunties,

soothing, articulate, evocative and refined,

bringing us safely to the Weather and the News.

We listened to the same wonders, you and I,

tuned the static and the soot to pre-pubescent stories,

sensing there was something else

beyond the sideboard.

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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, for a chilly day –

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