Sign up with your email address to be the first to know about new products, VIP offers, blog features & more.

BY ANY OTHER NAME

 For Sandra Lewis

 

We were unsure where to put the Christmas Rose,

aka hellebore niger, you brought us

this December gone. We chose, pro tem, the room

where I write, with its two long windows.

The light the north facing one lets in

is unambiguous. The other accepts

occasional sun from late mornings

to early evenings. I write in a corner

by a wall of books. With its much travelled

piano,

share

BREAK AN EGG!

I am reminded of Professor Wallofski’s

Omelette, Prince of Demark, and the rotten egg

the curate ate, watching this particular

‘peasant rogue…tear a passion to tatters’

as if each word were merely a bagatelle

on a stage the size of a tennis court.

‘Oh, what a noble mind…’ But, yoking apart,

who would wander those chill corridors,

discouraged by the guttering torches

in their sconces, where duty and hatred,

love and negligence throng in the smoky

shadows only words discombobulate –

share

NO LESS LIQUID

‘Cats no less liquid than their shadows
Offer no angles to the wind…’
CATS II, A.S.J. Tessimond

 

With your lithe delight, at the refuge for strays

and rejects, you and she chose each other

immediately. She had a white tuft

at her throat but otherwise was truly

sable; with Egyptian eyes – emerald,

unblinking, discerning; a sycophantic

charmer; an aloof dowager; a great

mouser, night or day, bearing carcasses

as reward for those that worshipped her.

 

share

THE ABATTOIR AT MAZINGARBE

The push for Aubers Ridge had been postponed

because of rain. But the Saturday

was dry and sunny. Going up the line

in the early evening, the Munsters

stood easy at the shrine to Our Lady.

‘…in remissionem peccatorum…’

By noon, next day, nearly half were dead,

caught on the German wire Haig’s ill equipped

artillery had, once more, failed to cut.

 

In Mazingarbe, an industrial town

ten miles south, the British commandeered

the abattoir.

share

STAPLETON COTTON 1ST VISCOUNT COMBERMERE

Stapleton Cotton 1st Viscount Combermere’s

equestrian statue, surrounded now

by traffic, would grace any capital.

For more than a hundred and fifty years

set before Chester Castle he rides south

towards Thomas Harrison’s Grosvenor Bridge

– once the longest single-span arch in the world –

opened by Princess Victoria.

The Viscount – soldier, politician,

diplomat – holds his feathered bicorne

at his side as if just removed in salute.

 

Though Combermere’s seat (once an abbey,

share

THE FORK IN THE ROAD

They would never know that the narrow lanes –

one right, up the thickly wooded hill,

the other, following the valley’s curve,

quickly out of sight – led to the same place,

and that the few houses there were shuttered.

 

They had stopped – the diesel puttering,

the brown exhaust fouling the summer air –

in front of the triangle of long grass,

with a glass fronted shrine at its centre,

that marked the fork in the road. The officer

searched the landscape with binoculars,

share