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Visiting Geneva

Les Murray

I came to Geneva

by the bullet train,

up from church kero lamps -

it must have been the bullet train.


I rolled in on a Sunday

to that jewelled circling city

and everything was closed

in the old-fashioned way.


In the city of Palais

and moored Secretariat

I arrived in spring when

the Ferraris come out.


Geneva, refuge of the Huguenots,

Courtauld, Pierrepoint, Haszard,

Boers Joubert and Marais,

Brunel’s young Isambard


and John Calvin, unforgiver

in your Taliban hat

you pervade bare St Peter's

in la France protestante,


Calvin, padlock of the sabbath,

your followers now protect you:

predestination wasn’t yours, they claim,

nor were the Elect you,


but: when you were God

sermons went on all day

without numen or presence.

Children were denied play.


I had fun with your moral snobbery

but your great work's your recruits,

your Winners and Losers. You

turned mankind into suits -


and many denims, messer John.


From The Rialto No 66 (Spring 2009)

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