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Tag Archives British

THE ABATTOIR AT MAZINGARBE

The push for Aubers Ridge had been postponed

because of rain. But the Saturday

was dry and sunny. Going up the line

in the early evening, the Munsters

stood easy at the shrine to Our Lady.

‘…in remissionem peccatorum…’

By noon, next day, nearly half were dead,

caught on the German wire Haig’s ill equipped

artillery had, once more, failed to cut.

 

In Mazingarbe, an industrial town

ten miles south, the British commandeered

the abattoir.

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RESURRECTION

Our house, the street’s first, was built epochs ago

on Cheshire pastureland. There has been nothing

for history to note here – only births, deaths,

the occasional fire and break-in,

and marriages at the Methodist Church

almost opposite us. Empires collapsed

from within – Austro-Hungarian,

British, French, German, Ottoman, Russian,

and Soviet. Here only the seasons came,

and bed-sits, then gentrification.

 

Now the St Petersburg Resurrection

A Cappella Choir – founded post-Gorbachev

to sing the liturgy in concert halls –

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THE LAST CALIPH

Ataturk dissolved seven centuries
of the Sultanate and the British
cloaked-and-daggered the aging Sultan
by sea to San Remo and exile.
Ataturk made the Sultan’s middle aged
cousin, Abdülmecid II, Caliph.
He seemed to carry his descent, as it were,
from the Prophet as lightly as a Pope
from the Saviour. He liked the pomp
and the public circumstance of the role
so much Ataturk sent him packing too.

Classical composer, husband of four wives,
painter, lepidopterist, gardener,
a Victor Hugo fan and of Montaigne’s
Essays –

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BEASTLINESS

‘…hardly any Jews!’, The Matabele Campaign 1896, Colonel R.S.S. Baden-Powell, Methuen, London, 1897.

 

The British in Africa seem always

to have verged on the comical. There was

BP chasing a Matabele girl

through bush. He was ahorse, she on foot.

In tranquillity, he sketched the scene – the girl

bare-footed and -breasted, himself at a

gallop – for publication. She escaped –

but Rhodesia was made safe for Cecil,

the continent for Aids and exploitation.

Jingoist,

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LESS THE PRICE OF THE MEDAL

Felicia Hemans

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

In 1962, the year the Pope excommunicated Fidel Castro

and the USA and USSR went toe-to-toe,

I won the Felicia Hemans’ prize for lyric poetry,

open to students and alumni of the University of Liverpool.

 

Mrs Hemans, born in Liverpool, but living

most of her life in North Wales, a best selling poet,

a child prodigy, a prolific adult, whose work

was admired by Wordsworth and Landor,

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NORTH WAZIRISTAN, INDIA, 1937

As he lay in a slit trench, in the dark,

next to the howitzer – smelling the gun oil

despite the cold, shivering despite

the army issue blanket and a tribesman’s

sheepskin tunic he’d bartered for – he thought

of tomorrow’s oven heat, turned, looked up.

Before he came to India, he’d never seen

so many stars. He’d eleven months to go

before his discharge – better counted that way

than in days or weeks. But maybe he’d sign on

for another tour.

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BEASTLINESS

‘…hardly any Jews!’, The Matabele Campaign 1896,
Colonel R.S.S. Baden-Powell, Methuen, London, 1897


The British in Africa seem always

to have verged on the comical. There was

BP chasing a Matabele girl

through bush. He was ahorse, she on foot.

In tranquillity, he sketched the scene – the girl

bare-footed and -breasted, himself at a

gallop – for publication. She escaped –

but Rhodesia was made safe for Cecil,

the continent for Aids and exploitation.

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PREPOSITIONS

ON THE PONTE SAN ANGELO

Three roma children

on New Year’s Day kindle a

fire from last year’s leaves.

IN SEVILLE

After rain, a girl

struts her stuff flamenco style:

no one notices.

BY THE A3

Four chestnut horses

flick their tails in the shade of

a horse chestnut tree.

AT KOM OMBO

Crocodiles, Pharaohs,

Romans, French, Turks, British gone:

only tourists,

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