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Open Tue 12 – 6pm, Wed – Sun 12 – 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday 12 noon - 6 pm, Wednesday to Sunday 12 noon – 8 pm
Tints of gray and star-
Shines mar your passing
So that you become a mere blur
Under the spotlight.
You weave a world to behold
Whenever you sleep
And nothing is left of it
But the rubble of haunted cities
And cold husks of deserted homes.
There is nothing to recover from,
No hope of building and rebuilding
Your fallen race,
No memory of what they have done
To the stars
That seek out your birth.
The man stands by his pick-up
truck and whirrs the automatic
windlass into life. Bob, Bob’s
wife and Bob’s wife’s niece watch.
When he arrived, he eyed Bob’s car,
scratched his baseball-cap, said the ad
had had him understand it wasn’t quite
so… But he’d take it. For parts.
Bob has been busy: he’s jettisoned
the other contents of the corrugated iron
garage. Only two prehistoric oil-cans –
‘good for ten years yet’ – get saved.
The cable tautens, and Bob’s car –
insofar as it can still be called
a car – ploughs into daylight. No tyres.
No engine. Chassis on the gravel.
The man operates the controls
with one thumb. ‘Can we help at all?’
‘No, it’s OK.’ Bob’s wife’s niece’s small
son’s playing with a bucketful of stones.
The pick-up humps up the unmade lane.
Bob’s car rides piggyback, bumping side
to side. They turn onto the main road
at the top, and everybody goes inside.
(Visitors' Book at Montacute church)
You are meant to exclaim. The church
Expects it of you. Bedding plants
And polished brass anticipate a word.
Visitors jot a name,
A nationality, briskly enough,
But find Remarks beyond them.
I love English churches!
Says Friedrichshafen expansively.
The English are more backward. They come,
Certainly, from Spalding, Westbury-on-Trym,
The Isle of Wight; but all the words
They know are: Very Lovely; Very Peaceful; Nice.
A giggling gaggle from Torquay Grammar,
All pretending they can't spell beautiful, concoct
A private joke about the invisible organ.
A civilised voice from Cambridge
Especially noticed the beautiful churchyard.
Someone from Dudley, whose writing suggests tight shoes,
Reported Nice and Cool. The young entry
Yelp their staccato approval:
Super! Fantastic! Jesus Lives! Ace!
But what they found,
Whatever it was, wasn't what
They say. In the beginning,
We know, the word, but not here,
Land of the perpetually-flowering cliché,
The rigid lip. Our fathers who piled
Stone upon stone, our mothers
Who stitched the hassocks, our cousins
Whose bones lie smooth, harmonious around —
However majestic their gifts, comely their living,
Their words would be thin like ours; they would join
In our inarticulate anthem: Very Cosy.