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THE SKATER

Fearless, determined, yet circumspect, she briefly

glides, skims, and then glissades among strangers

on the ice rink in Archbishop Square.

The tannoy is broadcasting Christmas songs.

The skater coasts to ‘Chestnuts Roasting

On An Open Fire’ – music and words

by two American Jews and sung

by a man of colour from Alabama.

Before the Archbishop’s Palace – in whose

Hall of Mirrors, after Austerlitz,

Napoleon’s proxies sorted Europe,

with glitter ball diplomacy, for good –

she coasts,

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A VIEW FROM THE CASTLE

It is not the winter-grey Danube flowing –

hundreds of feet below – fast to Budapest,

nor the suspension bridge – with its high rise

circular restaurant – commemorating

the failed uprising against the Nazis,

nor the outline of the Vienna Alps

fifty miles away, nor the wind turbines

covering the plain between, but the concrete

Soviet era apartment blocks

now painted white and some in pastel shades

that first catch the eye from this stronghold

on a rocky hill far above the town

on the second day of 2018.

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WATER SELLERS, BROOKLYN BRIDGE

It was 82 and humid the Sunday

before 9/11 when we walked

onto the crowded bridge from Brooklyn Heights.

Two teenage Latino-looking girls –

unsmiling, unsure, uneasy – were standing

by an insulated cart – no doubt

pushed up the walkway by some enterprising

dad or brother – filled with plastic bottles

of glistening water. The sellotaped price

was two dollars – but trade was measured

despite the weather. A guarded city

even in diversity? I thought of Hart Crane’s

‘Migrations that must need void memory,

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WINTER

Footballers in the park grow younger, play

longer into December nights. In my garden,

leaves decompose. Fogs rise to the window.

I see my father’s features in the glass.

 

Gulls are grave, funereal in their white

seriousness. Bad weather visitors,

fickle as spume-flecks, they flitter from grass

into heavy skies, craftsmen in gravity.

 

Winter is too human for comfort.

Natural we should shudder as darkness

drifts in sooner. Ice seasons carry home

truths on incisive air.

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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,

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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 –

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