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AS GOOD AS IT GETS

After we have booked our whale watching trip,

we spend the afternoon at Yoko Ono’s

‘Imagine Peace’ in the Hafnarhús

gallery, where we put peace stickers

on maps of the world and our grand daughter

writes on her label to hang on the peace tree

‘I wish I could have lovelyness for ever

and ever and ever and ever’ – then she

and I play the war game chess. Later

we have fish and chips – battered in spelt

and oven roasted respectively –

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A WINTER’S JOURNEY

Driving northwards, driving homewards, we pass

inundated pasture – mercurial

in shape and colour – its sheen reflecting

the late morning’s rare roseate sky.

Bared trees and bushes are a dull amber.

 

In time, cloud cover becomes leaden –

then snow falls: the downy flakes like weightless

seeds, which the windscreen wipers flail clear

again and again. The empty fields fill,

remorselessly, as early evening comes.

 

Miles on, the snow no longer falls. It has

settled.

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A SHROPSHIRE LAD…

…is the first book of poetry I owned –

a breast pocket sized hardback, slightly foxing.

It was my father’s: his name neatly

in capitals on the inside cover

in indelible pencil – a Londoner,

the son of immigrants. When I was ten

my mother gave it me. I liked the first line

‘From Clee to heaven the beacon burns’,

imagining it set to music.

 

Following his death on active service, the book

was sent back with all his other things.

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THE SORES OF WAR

‘…sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments…’ President Donald J. Trump

 

In a letter to the New York Times three years

before the war General Robert E. Lee

described slavery per se as ‘a moral

and political evil’ and, in the States,

‘a greater evil to the white man’

than the black. In 1857 Lee

had been his father-in-law’s executor.

George Custis had manumitted his slaves

on his death bed there and then but ‘no white man

was in the room’.

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RIVA DEI SETTE MARTIRI, VENICE

If you stroll far enough, long enough eastwards

on Riva Degli Schiavoni (Shore

of the Slaves) – before it was a wide,

stone promenade it was sand and mud  –

stroll away from the crowds, past the Danieli,

the Arsenale, the vaporetto stops

and beyond, with San Georgio Majore

across the Bacino Di San Marco –

you come to the Shore of the Seven Martyrs,

where now private yachts and small cruise ships dock.

 

It was the Riva Dell’Imperio –

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MOUNTAIN VIEW

Some time after midnight, when the bars have closed,

the hoots and laughter of revellers

on the stone-clad stairs wakes us. Much later

wind, billowing through the open corridors

of the steel framed building, shakes our door

intermittently like some errant soul.

In the shallow valley below the hotel

a cock crows above the gusts and the rattles.

 

***

 

In the morning a warm west wind blows

over the sea from what was Carthage.

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