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CONVALESCENCE

We drove towards the River Dee – down walled lanes

with rhododendrons festooning the sandstone,

their attic blooms in imperial colours –

to visit a doughty friend convalescing,

from two knee replacements, in Seize The Day,

a recently opened upmarket care home.

 

As we turned into the drive, I realised

that this, long before rebuilding, was where

my mother had first trained to be a nurse –

sixteen, with her friend, Belle. They cared for children

with TB from the Liverpool slums.

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ASYLUM SEEKER

i.m. Samuel Selzer

 

He was never sure if it had been a joke

when the police arrested him for being,

he learned later, Jack the Ripper,

even though the last murder had been

a dozen years before, and he himself

had been eight and far away – or just

a lesson for yet another alien

wandering Whitechapel as if he had

a right to be lost in a pea souper.

 

Fresh from the Hamburg boat docked at Tilbury,

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THE BRIDGE

Where the Menai Straits are at their narrowest,

between two bluffs, Thomas Telford chose to build

his one span suspension bridge, high enough

for tall ships to pass. The two towers,

exposed to the tides, were built of limestone blocks

from the Penmon quarries on the coast

north of here. Caernavon Castle had been built

from Penmon stone – and blocks were shipped to Dublin

to line the Liffey with wharfs and quays.

 

Telford, the ‘Colossus of Roads’, was reared

in penury –

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AN AFTERNOON IN MAY

By our side gate the old laburnum – whose wood,

in time, may make a chanter or a flute –

is in bloom. I look up through its branches.

There is a little azure and smidgens

of green – and droplets, ringlets, links, chains

of cascading yellow, a torrent of gold.

 

***

 

Our Edwardian neighbourhood fills

with the machined roar of twin turbofans.

An Airbus Beluga – more Arctic whale

than Caspian sturgeon –

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THE MUSEUMS

For Sizwe Vilakazi

 

ROBBEN ISLAND, CAPE TOWN

 

Except when the Atlantic fog surprises,

from high ground in the city the island

is present like a leviathan,

its lights at night like white phosphorous,

a place of banishment since the first ships,

among seals and penguins.

 

DISTRICT SIX, CAPE TOWN

 

Razing its streets, clearing this cosmopolis

of Asians, atheists,

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HIGHWATER

The incoming tide brings shoals of mackerel fry.

Herring gulls, perhaps a hundred, more,

young among them in their mottled plumage,

are yelling at the water’s edge, feeding

in frenzy as the small waves scatter.

Far out on the low, narrow, wooden jetty

my small family leans over to marvel

at the fishes before landfall. At my back

is the white crescent of hotels, the town,

the estuary, the mountains, sun setting.

 

They cross the beach, granddaughter running ahead,

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