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Tag Archives French

GRASSALKOVICH PARK, BRATISLAVA

Yesterday was New Year’s Eve and the fountain

was drained to prevent too much merriment.

So the bronze, nude young ladies disport themselves

in dry, cold air. The equestrian statue

of Maria Theresa, mother

of sixteen, and the last of the Holy

Roman Empresses appears unamused,

though whether by the municipality’s

actions or the girls’ appears unclear.

Last month’s heavy snow remains in small,

sheltered drifts behind occasional trees.

What was an Hungarian aristocrat’s

formal palace garden in the French style

has become –

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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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AT LENIN’S TOMB

We joined the queue one warm afternoon two days

before Victory Day, and the week Putin

was first crowned. There were police everywhere –

mostly, it seemed, armed thirteen year olds

in wide-brimmed caps. One halted the queue

to allow a group of be-medalled,

self-conscious veterans to enter first.

Inside, we were ‘forbidden to smoke, talk, photograph,

video, or have your hands in your pockets’.

 

Exiled to the conifer forests

of Central Siberia with its gnat

legions of summer,

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A GOOSE IN THE BAMBOO

Catching a charter flight from Manchester,

the family eases through security

but I am detained – there are traces

of explosive in my backpack: poems

on the hard drive? The scanner is at fault.

 

At Nikos Kazantzakis Heraklion –

the only airport named for a writer –

one of our cases arrives broken

on the single baggage carousel

and one of the gent’s toilets has backed up

but ‘Zorba’s Dance’ is playing somewhere,

the sea beyond the runways could be almost

‘wine-dark’

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THE FALL OF EMPIRES

On the manicured corniche between Elounda

and Plaka – before the balconied hotels

that rise up the mountainside tier by

expensive tier – is the Turkish Governor’s house,

abandoned for nearly a century.

We venture up the steep, pitted drive

but sudden howling from unseen dogs

deters. On the opposite side of the bay,

where only widows on donkeys go,

the shore is festooned with plastic bags

shredded by the tides and bleached by the sun.

The foundations of the antique city

of Olous shimmer beneath the water.

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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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THE CITIZENS’ ARMY

Dawn on the auto route and the surprise

of place names: Thiepval, Bapaume – Kitchener’s

nonchalant, Citizens’ Army rising,

at breakfast time, to walk unwaveringly

into the cross-wires of machine gun sights.

 

The First World War dead of Sharp Street, Hull,

have their own memorial – enamel

on tinplate behind glass with French, Haig,

Foch and Beatty like seraphs at its corners.

 

Through Flanders, there is a danse macabre:

graveyards are laid out like city streets,

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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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