Why do the ivy and hawthorn glisten
With an archaic light this morning?
Why is their bending and shaking
Under the easterly off the Pennines
So much like a resigned bowing
Under the buffets of history?
Sunlight silvers the frame,
The white surround is spotted with mildew.
Pictured under the archway
(Rennie’s ellipse of 1819),
The village composes its features
Into a perfectly Georgian image.
Herring gulls follow the furrows
In a blizzard of white that falls as always
While off to the south in Kirkby and Walsall
Punks with spiky Mohicans,
Skins in thick-soled Doc Martins,
Pose to be snapped in grainy photos.
The choice could be epic or lyric,
It could be tabloid or graffito.
The antique options chose me
Not in the study this morning
But nearly a century past
When my forebears moved to the sparkling city.
Upwardly mobile or sideways,
They entrenched themselves in sofas and mirrors.
Upright and black as pianos,
They studied their sober reflections,
Translated from Latin to Scots,
And breathed to the air of ‘Crimond’ on Sundays.
From this grave kindergarten
A secretive boy buds out
Who dreams in the rain with Wordsworth
And masturbates to Rossetti,
Swooning at ‘breasts half-globed’
As they rise like moons from the musty pages
The forms of the verse are old and shapely
(Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘lying beauty’),
They mass in the brain like handsome fungi:
‘Omnia vanitas,’ saith the preacher,
‘Earth’s shadows fly,’ saith the poet,
‘There hath passed away a glory ... ’
I hear again that desolate ground-bass
Under the jazz of the moment,
I succumb to its undertow
As it buoys me backwards, allowing
The tilt of the grey North Sea to cancel
The low-lit coastlines of the future.
Between the bones of the oil rigs
I peer at the site of my past
Where tarmac covers the roots of the limetrees
And the bright-lipped women and men,
At home in their century,
Chatter and swing to the latest single.