A skyline as idiosyncratic
as Manhattan’s, Chicago’s – its totems
of wealth, faith and dominion – belies
the city’s cruelty: fortunes from famine,
despotism, slavery; licensing
of squalor, bigotry and despair.
In the park where the Orange Lodge drummed out
The Twelfth, a rape was immediate headlines –
white girl, black youths. In Toxteth – its decayed
squares and terraces built on molasses
and cotton, some street signs repainted green,
gold, red, the colours of Rastafari –
‘Two bald men fighting over a comb…’ José Luis Borges
Almost always, winds blew – over heath and sheep.
Seas swelled southward – to ice, minerals.
Mapped, the islands seemed like green spume: a tattered
standard blown west. That bleak solitude
was Arthur Ransome country – The Camp,
Tumbledown Mountain – naive, single minded,
like the Falkland Flightless Steamer duck…
Larger than Greenland, smaller than India,
Argentina did not exist.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is
somehow very ‘Thirties: lots of chaps in
the dark behind high walls; much shadow-play
with unidentifiable voices;
belated, blinding suddenness of light.
The decade’s putative worthies (who all,
by the way, seem to have been chaps) go forth
unknowingly in parallel: e.g.
Hitler in Berchtesgarten, Wittgenstein
(Adolf’s erstwhile peer from Linz) in Cambridge.
Did Wittgenstein walk with Blunt, Philby,
For Mark Chapman, PPC
So well is our real government concealed, that if you tell a cabman to drive to ‘Downing Street’ he most likely will never have heard of it…It is only a ‘disguised republic’, which is suited to such a being as the Englishman in such a century as the nineteenth.
THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION, Walter Bagehot, 1867.
HM’s Garden Parties turn the Bagehot trick,
showing GB as it really, really is:
the Law, the Cloth, clerks,
You are Princess Ayesha, the principal girl,
in the youth group’s pantomime at St Barnabas,
West Street, Crewe. Disguised as a boy, you are searching
for Aladdin – your true, lost love – in the canvas
forest and the bazaar, among the painted caves
and the amphora. Heavily Max Factored, dressed
in torn shirt and ripped shorts – having crossed the desert,