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CONFEDERATE CEMETERY, ALTON, ILLINOIS

All of the names of the dead are Celtic

or English. Most of them died – in the prison

near the river –  from typhoid rather than wounds.

Nobody set out to be cruel – farmers’

sons killing farmers’ sons. Their graveyard

above the bluffs was grassed, an obelisk built,

their names cast in bronze, bolted to limestone.

From the highway, there is no signage.

Eagles winter on the  bluffs. America’s heart

is green and fecund: a confluence –

Illinois,

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VIRTUALLY BIRDLESS IN ASSISI

The Dodo, Ustad Mansur, Agra, 1610

The Dodo, Ustad Mansur, Agra, 1610

 

 

 

For Sarah:  always a conservationist, latterly a twitcher.

                                 i

In Umbria – the cuore verde of pristine, wooded hills,

Orvieto’s honey-pale wines,

the paintings of Perugino and Pisano,

the Tiber’s milky jade,

tartufo nero

they stew thrush.

 

ii

At least once in our suburban garden,

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THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS

Blondin carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on a tightrope.

Blondin carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on a tightrope.

Witness The Great Wallenda, an aging

high wire artiste, who, for his final act,

required technology’s summation –

tv, automobiles, bottles of plasma;

crossed a canyon on cable thin as a wrist;

walked on wire a quarter of a mile

above the earth. He stood, twice, on his head

and the crowds of thousands gasped, then cheered,

the noise muffled in that oh! profound gorge.

 

 

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WE PRISONERS

A lark starting from the heather; a lamb

amazed by a heron; a hare gutted

at a turn in the road; the familiar path

obscured by fern, bramble, convolvulus:

the gallery in my head is open

all hours – by turns, thriving and derelict.

The sparrow in my chest, where my heart lay,

now flings itself at broken panes, now stills.

At the end of the pier, where steamships docked,

black-headed gulls and anglers watch and wait.

The steel-faced laughing man will read our stars.

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LOST

Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire

Fanny Adams' grave, Alton cemetery, Hampshire

 

After the fluorescent shops and the snatched music,

the side street was damp and dark –

but a bag of chips and a manipulative adult

made the emptiness freedom.

 

Waterways were trawled and the usual,

time-dishonoured suspects questioned.

Down river, high tides returned her nine year old body.

 

The funeral cortège was a carriage and horses

and the local press was effulgent.

But gossip condemned her single mother,

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