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BETWEEN RIVERS SPRING 2022: ‘AT LOGGERHEADS’ & ‘A RELATION OF SOME STRANGE PHÆNOMENA’ – ALAN HORNE

BETWEEN RIVERS is a quarterly series – https://www.davidselzer.com/2022/05/between-rivers-introduction/  – focused on the area bounded by the rivers Alyn, Dee and Gowy, on the border between England and Wales in Flintshire and Cheshire.

This first edition of BETWEEN RIVERS includes two contrasting pieces. One is David Selzer’s 2018 poem ‘At Loggerheads’, and the other is an account by Roger Mostyn,  of explosions in an early Flintshire coal mine owned by his family, taken from the Transactions of the Royal Society and dated 1677.

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‘AT LOGGERHEADS’

This was one of the poems that prompted us to imagine BETWEEN RIVERS.

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A FAR AWAY COUNTRY

When the images caught on someone’s iPhone

of a shelled apartment block in a Kyiv

suburb and a woman sweeping up

shards of glass on a balcony that has

only been partially destroyed, or the piles

of rubble in Kharkiv city centre

that might be Aleppo, Fallujah, Dresden,

change to scorched family cars on littered roads

with snow falling, sometimes on the skyline

are deciduous trees and, clinging

to their leafless branches, silhouetted,

near perfect spheres of mistletoe,

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THE POET AND THE BATTLESHIP

Emperor Augustus exiled the poet

Ovid to Tomis, a Black Sea port

and ancient metropolis, first city

of the Scythian Frontier, a day’s ride

from the Danube delta. Tomis –

in ancient Greek ‘to cut’, ‘to sever’, so called,

Ovid wrote, because Medea, Jason’s

sorceress and lover, dismembered

her brother there, threw the pieces in the sea –

now is Constanta, Romania, renamed

for the consort of Constantine,

and where the mutinous crew of the Potemkin,

after the failed revolution,

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MAÎTRE JACQUES

Master James of St George d’Esperance, Savoy –

civil engineer and architect,

a Lutyens, a Vauban, a Speer –

was ‘master of the Kinges werkes in Wales’.

He built the castles at Rhuddlan, Conwy,

Harlech, Caernavon and Beaumaris –

all accessible from river or sea,

the last four with bastides (walled, fortified towns) –

for Edward I, England’s ninth Norman king,

in the latter’s campaign to rob the Welsh.

 

Beaumaris – the final touches unfinished

through lack of funds,

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SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI

Passengers feel the train brake before they see,

from the embankment above the hectares

of marshes, the landscape begin to slow.

The many acres of grasses and flashes

have snipe, little ringed plover, lapwing,

water shrew, otter – and cattle grazing

at their edges. The River Sow flows

through the wetlands, and, far beyond the town,

joins the Trent, Ouse, North Sea. Between sedges,

low over pools in summer, swallows hunt.

 

We pass under the M6 viaduct,

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A FAMOUS VICTORY

Maes Garmon (Garmon’s Field) is on a low

and bosky hillside in a river valley

in North East Wales, and is named for a battle,

from the Dark Ages, that probably

never occurred there or anywhere else –

the so-called ‘Alleluia Victory’.

 

St Germanus, a Gaul from Auxerre, a

5th century career civil servant

and prelate – before he was sanctified,

of course – was dispatched to Brittania

on a mission. Pelagianism was rife,

the belief that there is no such thing as

original sin,

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