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CAPTAIN TILLY PARK, QUEENS, SEPTEMBER 2001

‘The park is named for Captain George H. Tilly, a local son of a prominent family who was killed in action in the Philippines while serving in the Spanish-American War, and a monument to the war is prominent in the park.’ New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

 

From the park’s Memorial Hill one can see

Manhattan, and the World Trade Center’s

Twin Towers. Below, this Labor Day

early evening, the benches round Goose Pond

are filled with families – Sikh, Jamaican,

Hispanic.

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THE GUN EMPLACEMENT

For Doreen Levin

 

He was on duty the night Liverpool burned.

They watched the orange glow over in the east.

He remembered the convoy earlier that day

strung out along the horizon, waiting

for high tide. The Lance Jack, Scouser One,

told them where it was. One of the Taffies said,

‘My brother’s there too’, leaving things unspoken.

 

In the silence Saul wondered if Tilbury

was being done as well, the bombs drifting,

as usual,

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D-DAY CELEBRATIONS

The TV presenter speaks of ‘sacrifice’.

She is al fresco on a purple sofa

with puce cushions. In the middle ground

are dignitaries, veterans, and a band.

Beyond are the War Graves Commission’s white ranks

of the British dead from Sword and Gold.

 

Only one speaker – beret, blazer, medals,

a RN signaller on a landing craft –

comes close to hinting that no one chose

to be a sacrifice. His speech is short,

even appropriately amusing,

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THE RÜSSELSHEIM MURDERS

I was Gratiano, Bassanio’s pal

in The Merchant of Venice. He ends the play

with an obscene pun. We were an ensemble

of drama teachers performing the piece

in English at Rüsselsheim’s Stadttheater,

the year after the Wall came down – so the pun

was probably lost somewhere in translation.

 

We were a couple of hours from the border.

One of our group became ill. The doctor,

treating her in the hostel where we stayed,

thought at first she was an ‘Ossie’.

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1746

The prisoners were dispersed across the north,

being too numerous for one assize –

many had followers, women and children:

a lost cause’s collateral damage.

 

An unrecorded number – of both rebels

and dependents – was held on the heath

a quarter of a mile due west of here

where I am researching and typing.

 

They wintered among the gorse and the heather.

Maybe there were tents, or perhaps bivouacs,

certainly for the guards.

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APPLES AND PEARS

For Alison and Georgia Robson

 

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.’ Isaac Newton

 

The ancient pear tree next door has not been pruned,

I would guess, for at least seventy years,

long before our time here, or the neighbours’.

It is now as large as a medium-sized oak,

with the remains of a magpie’s nest.

Its fruit, in these last days of summer, glow

a ruddy green; are plentiful,

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