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In 1348

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Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

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Diary: Where water used to be

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Two PoemsPaul Farley
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From a Weekend First

One for the money. Arrangements in green and grey
from the window of an empty dining-car.
No takers for this Burgundy today
apart from me. I’ll raise a weighted stem
to my homeland scattering by, be grateful for
these easy-on-the-eye, Army & Navy
surplus camouflage colours that seem
to mask all trace of life and industry;
a draft for the hidden dead, our forefathers,
the landfills of the mind where they turned in
with the plush and orange peel of yesteryear,
used up and entertained and put to bed
at last; to this view where everything seems to turn
on the middle distance. Crematoria, multiplex
way stations in the form of big sheds
that house their promises of goods and sex;
to the promise of a university town,
its spires and playing fields. No border guards
will board at this station, no shakedown
relieve me of papers or contraband:
this is England. Nobody will pull the cord
on these thoughts, though the cutlery and glasses
set for dinner are tinkling at a bend,
a carriage full of ghosts taking their places.

Now drink to slow outskirts, the colour wheels
of fifty years collected in windows;
to worlds of interiors, to credit deals
with nothing to pay until next year, postcodes
where water hardens, softens, where rows and rows
of streetlight become the dominant motif
as day drains, and I see myself transposed
onto the dark, lifting my glass. Belief
is one thing, though the dead have none of it.
What would they make of me? This pinot noir
on my expenses, time enough to write
this on a Virgin antimacassar –
the miles of feint, the months of Sunday school,
the gallons of free milk, all led to here:
an empty dining-car, a single fool
reflected endlessly on the night air.

Joseph Beuys

To write about elemental things, to render
the world in its simpler smells and shapes and textures,
to describe how tallow collects under the finger-

nails, how felt feels against bare skin
is not, I repeat, not an option
having lived several times removed from the world as itself,

although it can do no harm to imagine
myself as the stricken airman
carted indoors by the local women,

who’d take it in turns attending to the matter
of rubbing in the Stork SB and Flora,
the Golden Churn and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

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