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TRIGGER AT THE ADELPHI HOTEL, LIVERPOOL, MARCH 1954

For Alex Cox



This is the year Dien Bien Phu falls,

Algeria rises, segregation is

ruled illegal in the USA,

the first kidney is transplanted and UK

wartime food rationing finally ends.

Lime Street was filled with thousands of boys and girls,

gathered to greet the singing, celluloid,

Born Again cowpoke, Roy Rogers (erstwhile

Leonard Slye), and his entourage – combining

a promo tour with a Billy Graham

crusade.

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THE SUBURBS OF FOLLY

OR CARE IN THE COMMUNITY


People new to the neighbourhood soon notice,

rising from one of the walled gardens

or the terraced yards, an occasional

bird call – wood pigeon or even cuckoo?

Distracted by the previous owners’ always

doubtful detritus, it takes them longer

to realise the sounds are human though

of indeterminate age and gender.

Exchanging a Victorian madhouse

for a gentrified Victorian suburb,

making ambiguous bird noises rather

than rocking to and fro in the urine-stink

must be better –

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HERONS IN THEIR HABITATS, LOVERS IN THEIR LIVES

'The Heron Hunt', Eugene Fromentin 1820-1876

i

A heron – self-motivated, self-contained, aloof – stands,

between a potted phormium and a wooden Buddha,

on the roof of a houseboat on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam,

two metres or so from passing cyclists on the embankment

and the nervous tourists queuing for Anne Frank’s house.

ii

A heron – undisturbed, unconnected, elsewhere – perches securely

on a fallen oak beside a Cheshire pond near the motorway,

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LOCAL AUTHORITY

The rain was heavy.  The road was slurred

with cow muck and clay. I slowed

then stopped the car as a straggle of cows

swayed round the bend in the lane.

Large, wild eyes caught me – dry, warm

and listening  to a string quintet –

on County Council business.

One of the beasts, sashaying to a

milky music, nudged a wing mirror askew.

Dense hedgerow became sky of enduring grey.

The elderly cowman plodded at the rear.

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NOT ANYTHING TO SHOW MORE FAIR

'Westminster Bridge', Canaletto, 1746



A league from Hoole is Westminster Bridge,

Ellesmere Port. Like Wordsworth, I composed on it.

The brick replica replaced the level

crossing, after the Borough had built

the Civic Hall in the boom time: Shell, Vauxhall,

overspill estates – a working class city.

Jobs went, the bridge stayed, no one made jokes.

The high street, strait, terraced, encompassed

all: Big Mac and sometimes on Sundays

Russian sailors window-shopping.

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UNDER NOVEMBER SKIES

The rain has stopped. We can hear only the wind

and a swollen stream – hidden beneath

the high moor’s golden fern – rush through a culvert

under the road, which glistens, after the shower,

in an unexpected shaft of sunlight.

Rain clouds are blackening the mountains

to the west but northwards, beyond bracken

and gorse that stretches seemingly to land’s edge,

through a gap in the hills, we can see the sea,

a sunny blue, and a white ship sailing east –

too far away to recognise her flags.

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A NEIGHBOURHOOD OF STRANGERS

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.

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PRO PATRIA MORI

As fire storms travel, we are twenty miles

from the marshalling yards at Crewe, some twelve

and a half from a tracking station near

Wardle, sixish from British Nuclear

Fuels at Capenhurst and slightly more than

four from an unspecified RAF

electronic complex in Sealand – which

all must have their numbers on at least

one ICBM in a silo

east of the Urals and/or west of

the Appalachians.  And so, though there may be

nuclear winter in Hoole,

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‘A WINDY DAY’ & ‘A CALM MORNING’

 

A WINDY DAY, J.M.W.TURNER Tabley, the seat of Sir J.F. Leicester

They bought up land, made marriages, dispossessed

tenants and built their fortune on rents.

These commissions mark their zenith. Since then,

the estate has been sold off acre by

acre, piece by piece – one Turner remains,

the other hangs in another museum.

Some things are unchanged: in the distance,

the house’s palladian exterior

in local sandstone, the round turreted

folly on the small island in the lake –

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IN THE COMPASS OF A PALE

With branch, stalk, thorns, by a dry summer’s

overgrowth obscured, in one unkempt border,

a rose – traditional, heart red – bloomed.

Over tall weeds and grasses, tangled, brittle,

I leant to pluck it, found it blown, blooded,

a bouquet of wormy petals – left it

blighted, inviolate. Where the black gate

hinged to the wall banking our garden,

coffin-sized, skeletal leaves gathered,

whispering, stones, stones. Come winter, frost fissured

bricks and luxurious, pitchy earth sprinkled.

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