Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Reading from Southbank Centre's Poetry Parnassus festival, 2012
That one sat in a soft prickly hayfield
writing her diary: ‘We visited a castle.
I have a stone from Lough Neagh, possibly marble
(see sketch on following page.)
Today is very hot again.
At lunch-time we went into a pub
and had milk mixed with soda-water.
Question: traditional Irish drink?’
This one sits in a white olive orchard
writing his diary. Dry silver trees,
bleached grass, cornflowers,
white road, silver stars
on the blue ceiling of a wayside shrine.
‘Today we went to San Damiano,
the church where Saint Francis hid from his father.’
And what would you say to that, Martha Brooks—
bringing the boy to a town full of Papists?
We must be the first among your children
to climb the worn shallow steps,
struggle back up the dusty road,
rest here. A cock crows at the farm.
Siesta-time is over, we say,
and move on up towards Assisi.
Martha, the boy is a good boy —
look at the blue eyes, the broad forehead —
and no more easily corrupted
by a taste of sanctity than I
all those years ago by holy Ireland —
not your phrase, I know, but your country:
which may all the saints protect now.
Close to home, their prints
darken the snow.
Come full moon,
the whole night is anguished –
stagger in their sheds
knocking the walls,
churning fodder and litter;
wide-eyed in lamplight
they buck and bruise.
culls worked like clockwork –
wolves skinned from their pelts
were hung out to dry,
as cotton stretched to new horizons,
as Kazakhs ate the dust.
Now fences are mended
bolts shot home
and the shotgun propped
by the bed
is oiled and loaded.
But sleep, sleep is fitful
as the lost packs mass
on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
CLOSING SCENES of the Salisbury Festival:
Haydn and Mozart in St. Edmund’s Church,
A building soon to be deconsecrated
Because irrelevant to civic needs
And turned into a meaningful hotel.
Involuntarily the mind throws up
Fancies of Japanese, back from Stonehenge,
Quaffing keg bitter by the pulpit stair,
Swedes booking coach-tours in the chancel.
SALISBURY becomes a part of Area 5
In 1974, and so its mayor,
Whose office dates back to 1611
(The year of the King James Bible, actually),
Will soon be as irrelevant as the church,
But need not be turned into anything.
LATER THAT NIGHT, outside the City Hall,
Past the Cadena, Debenham’s, Joyland,
Men of the 1st Bn. the Royal Scots
Perform the historic ceremony of Tattoo.
Plaids, bonnets, flash of tenor-drummers’ sticks,
The pipes, stir the blood unmeaningfully
Till ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ rings out
In the quick march, and relevance is restored.