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For Annabel Honor-Lissi


In those stark dreams when sleep shades into waking,

dreams that haunt the light like a taste in the mouth,

or a name half-remembered, half-forgotten,

I am always travelling – this dawn

along the black tops and the turnpikes,

from the Texas Panhandle north east

to Casco Bay, Maine. Ahead is the thought

of moments, or a non-stop two day drive:

from the sun-belt’s stubborn, garish pandemic;

via the fame of Dallas,



I listened to Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.

I liked the keys’ silver superstructure,

and the ebony stick with its subtle bell,

and its tones – mellow, lustrous, shrill, caressing.

So, to and from school, I chose to pass

a second-hand shop with a clarinet

on display in its eclectic window.

I saved for a year. ‘No,’ said the man. Next day

it was gone from the display forever.


My daughter took up the instrument

unprompted. Her daughter has followed.



If Ezekiel’s watchman, or, rather, God’s

had been on the job there would have been

some sort of heads-up – a cornet perhaps

if not a fanfare – that the Parish Church clock,

put in place in 1867,

would be chiming again, hours and quarters,

this summer morning. But it just happens –

almost surreptitiously, like some

member of the chorus in an opera

sneaking on late from the wings. And late it is

by a few minutes – as before it was fast.



Days after we had travelled east of Eden

we invented clowning and slapstick,

juggling and tumbling, magic and music,

and idleness to ease our banishment

from Paradise. So, for ninety minutes,

in this rare and aerial space of changelings

and kaleidoscopes, we watch acrobats

and clowns, conjurors and knife throwers turn back

the epochs as if pages in a book.


Like a sudden rush of snare drums, a brief

and heavy shower accompanies

the finale –



…though striped in part was not, in fact, a tiger,

or feline in any way, but related

to the kangaroo, so a marsupial,

with a head and muzzle a bit like a bear’s,

and the dimensions of an Alsatian dog.

Somebody named him Benjamin – a joke

probably: the last of Jacob’s sons,

and Israel’s progenitor. Some footage

survives, in black and white, of the animal

in his small, bleak cage in Hobart Zoo.

The newsreel’s pompous and slightly smarmy




A couple of weeks into the Great Lockdown –

robins nesting in the ivy, wild bees

in the eaves, as usual – we were

visited one day by a carrion crow,

its feathers of a blackness beyond

perfection, clinkered armour buffed bright.

It landed, the size of a large cat,

on our modest bird bath beside the lilies

beginning to burgeon. In its beak

was a portion-sized piece of baguette

or ciabatta, which it dropped in the water,

then flew off.