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MY UNCLE TOM

With the six o’clock news on Thursdays,

Uncle Tom, smelling of sweat and sawdust, brought

the Dandy – and the Beano! Unlooked-for,

like a lodger, in the bare, spared room over

the hall of brasses and ‘Off Valpariso’,

bachelor Tom had no more substance

than Lord Snooty or Desperate Dan.

He had been gassed twice and died of bronchitis

the year the King died of cancer. I lost

his chisels, which he honed but never used,

one by one in the garden.

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REVELATIONS

Marooned for three years, Ben Gunn was

‘sore for Christian diet’. He dreamt of cheese,

toasted mostly.

Doctor Livesey always had about him

a piece of Parmesan in a snuffbox.

When he heard about the dreams, he said,

‘Well, that’s for Ben Gunn!’

But we never find out if the ‘half mad maroon’ savours

the King of Cheeses.

Maybe he eats it and thinks of Cheddar.

I was walking up the Farnham Road in Slough.

I passed an off-licence run by Sikhs,

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UN DIMANCHE APRES-MIDI À L’ÎLE DE LA GRANDE JATTE

'A Sunday afternoon on La Grande Jatte', Georges Seurat, 1884



The trombonist will blow unnoticed. Much is absurd:

a monkey, women in bustles, the brass player.

The bourgeoisie reflects in post-prandial

tranquillity… Purges, coronations in Paris,

the metropolis of revolution, where Haussman’s

boulevards were an imperial stockade…

For two sous, the ferry transports Georges Seurat

across the Seine to the Ile de La Grande Jatte. Two years’

preparation, observation of colour, shape,

application of theory delineate an

historical moment,

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THE SWELLIES, AFON MENAI, ST VALENTINE’S DAY

Lovers are as mariners, navigators

in crowded, intricate sea lanes of

momentary loathing and lasting passion.

Pilots guided vessels into the straits:

from the north, between Trwyn-du’s dark rocks

and the wicked sands of Dutchman Bank;

from the south, between Abermenai

and Fort Belan over the Caernavon Bar;

and then through The Swellies – Pwll Ceris,

‘Pool of Love’ – where the surging high tides whirl

round Ynys Gored Goch, the wild waves

tawny and their foam white as drifting snow.

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THE MEMORIES OF SLAVES

On Overton Hill, an obelisk

in local sandstone marks the parish war dead.

Fresh graffiti partly obscure Worrall,

Egerton, Massey – names of Cheshire gentry,

villages, labourers. There is a solace

in landscapes, remorseless historians.

Below the hill, the town becomes a toy.

To the horizon, are laid out the pricey,

strategic illusions: refineries

distilling forests and the wide, poisoned

river narrowing to an ashen,

urban haze of broken streets, redundant wharves,

the memories of slaves.

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POETIC JUSTICE

A wishful thinking editor re-spelt

my name with a T and changed a poem’s

final words from ‘a tramp woman nurses

an infant/under a tumbling sky’ to

‘under a trembling sky’. Humbling to find

an editor’s chance(?) choice of epithet

happier than mine own! Mine was truer.

One winter night, I was changing trains at Crewe

and a red faced fellow traveller

sang, “…not her beauty alone. ‘Twas the truth

in her eye made me love the Rose of Tralee”.

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