Sunday 23 October 2022

Closedown (for Alice Arnold) by Wendy Cope

Closedown (for Alice Arnold) by Wendy Cope

An almost empty building:
Someone, all alone,
Reads the shipping forecast
To a microphone.

Listeners in bedrooms,
Listeners at sea,
Thousands of them, hear her
Speak invisibly,

Hear her through the darkness,
Hear her say goodnight,
Picture her alone there,
Switching off the light.

Is it really like that?
I asked if I could go
And be with the announcer
In the studio.

And, yes, it's really like that.
Someone all alone,
Reads the shipping forecast
To a microphone.

Speaks into the darkness,
Says a last goodnight.
Plays the national anthem,
Switches off the light.

Sunday 9 October 2022

Her First Ball - Fleur Adcock published in 'The Spectator', 4 October 2008

Her First Ball - Fleur Adcock

For the school dance I wore a circular skirt --
full length, and a full-circle swirl of apple green;
I bought the pattern; my mother made the frock.

But what to do with my hair: so little-girlish,
too long? Auntie Phil came up with a green snood
and an Alice-band on which (her brainwave)

she pinned sprigs of daphne -- most waxen-petalled,
extravagantly-scented of real flowers,
from the bush by our door -- to intoxicate,

as it turned out, my classmate Dell's very tall
brother Ken, who danced with me all evening,
his nose hovering above the honeyed wafts.

After my friends' lunchtime coaching in the gym
I managed the quicksteps and foxtrots all right,
even in gold sandals (we all wore gold sandals).

As for underneath, I'd been given no option:
Phil and my mother had tracked down in some shop
a pair of kneelength, scratchy woollen drawers

to protect my kidneys from chills, they insisted.
I was too naive to see at the time
what it was they really wanted to guard.

published in 'The Spectator' 4 October 2008

Friday 7 October 2022

Swiping left on Larkin by Imtiaz Dharker

 Swiping left on Larkin
Imtiaz Dharker

Here he is younger, his shoulders
thinner. She flicks a finger,
swipes left. He
is dismissed without a flicker.

If they pass on the street, she sees
a boy trudge by with a book and satchel
under the arm, on the way to a lifetime
of drudge, easy to overlook.

In the edge of his eye she is a blur
between staying or dying,
a whiff of abroad, the chaos
of prams and infants teething.

At the end of every birth is grieving.
He takes the dark for a walk, his light
on a leash through the sputtering streets
of a town caught in the act of drowning.

From a window a curtain is waving
but his back is turned. Shops shut up
and shutters come down on the chatter
of living, the guttering years.

All roads lead to a leaving.
He goes in to the bar of the station hotel,
sits for a while. When he leaves, he leaves
a pale ring on the table. Gold

spills out of basements over his feet.
He walks down a street and out
of his name. Beyond rumour and fame,
a flurry of letters blown into gutters,

the glitter of language on cobbles,
his words remain
bright as believing or half-believing,
At the end of the world there is always

the sea and its breathing,
swiping right, swiping right
across a blue screen
to something beginning.

Sunday 2 October 2022

A Human Haunt by Carol Ann Duffy

A Human Haunt by Carol Ann Duffy

St Mary Overie, St Saviour, Southwark,
over the river, a human haunt in stone,
thousand years here, the sweet Thames well recalls.
Who came? Nuns, brothers, in good faith, saints,
poets- John Gower, whose blind head, look, rests
on the pillow of his books; Chaucer, imagining
the pilgrims’ first steps on the endless written road
we follow now, good readers; Shakespeare,
with twenty cold shillings for a funeral bell-
players, publicans, paupers, politicians, princes,
all to this same, persistent, changing space,
between fire and water, theatre and marketplace;
us, lighting our candles in the calm cathedral,
future ghosts, eating our picnic on a bench.