In the blue-dark reaches of the hall a salvaged temple
glowers. Its perfection was at once implacable, unique.
I tilt the camera to upset its verticality. Cracks
upon the battered marble  betray as many failures
as the years. It’s Euclidian authority persists, though gods
are gone. Between its columns [ionic, fluted,
fractured] – cemented following  some Samsonite
assault – three females, headless, bustle. On every
blank and stone a busy frieze preserves a land
of riders spurred to war, or hustling shoulders
under flowing robes. Such noble haunches,
muscled thighs. Horses galloping a Muybridge
rotoscope. The pageant pediment meets
eyeless night – a held up universe upheld.

A disconnect occurs. Atomic structures move apart.
The living die, drift, disinter themselves.
Spaces empty; causes, contexts seek
their makers and are gone. Warmed and holy
streets give up their savage gods, become
a grid for sneakers, flip-flops, country casuals
and cool co-ordinates. Guide books flourish,
bring light through panes that face the sun.
The past unfolds – and, newly peopled, moves
in through blankened days and distances. Disturbs.

I raise my phone again and hide behind its camera
screen. A man in jeans and blue t shirt, cartoon
Minions printed across his belly’s comfortable
expanse holds centre of the frame. He looks
aside, holds knees apart. He’s bored
but in control. His back is turned, unseeing.

Bring down your gods, your headless dancers;
repopulate the scene with dreamers who can walk
the shadows of a thousand thousand days.

The Nereid Monument


Gallery 18, The British Museum

A milk marble hall, glacier cool,
light-diffused, shadowless, contains
the sum of everything we are.
A dozen histories, too many lives to count.

More than a gallery – a debate between nations,
bound in division. More than a simple tale:
the Imperial power rescuing the past;
snatching perfection from the ruins; good job

done & blah de blah. But that’s not the half!
The Parthenon presents a pantheist facade –
with Greeks and Christians out, the Koran replaced
our babble of the west – with its Socratean

sacrifice, then handy three Gods in One.
At first, a redoubt of the Prophet, then a powder
house – if Seven Pillars are not explosive power
enough, the stage is set for blind destruction –

by Venetians. A mortar round creates,
the ruins that will stand for years.
Then Elgin starts his mission to preserve.
Copies he seeks at first, until removal

seems his better choice – his throw of marbles
that will attach his name to antiquity forever.
A dubious grant of passage by the Turks
appears, and back from the Sultan’s Ottoman

Bazaar, they come. At first the good lord thinks
they’d decorate his modest Scottish home,
but flogs them to satisfy a hunger for divorce.
By now the English cultural crowd is well alight.

Byron rails, and anger thunders
through the land. A game of sides:
Not good enough! some said – That vandal!
others cried – but come they did, to London

for give or take a modest 30,000 pounds.
So here we are: a good selection,
[by no means all] of chiseled skill and pride,
Now clear of paint that would have

wowed the Acropolitan elite.
As we now stand, and point our phones,
they too would look in awe, as feet above
their heads, they grasped the chase of war,

the languor of those robes, the genius of Phidias.
And how these strolling sages and philosophers
loved their centaurs and their acts of rape –
part maths, part myths, their minds

Emerging into mirrors and to smoke.
At home in Athens, remains the other half –
holed up in a gallery of its own,
while the battered Parthenon itself endures

in time – through use as treasury, and church,
as mosque and magazine – to stand for ruined
glory and the pulverized democracy the ancients
in their wisdom talked about and lost.

The Parthenon, The British Museum
July 2017



Man of Steel

In Memoriam: David Rowlands

I have it in my mind
that all is left of you
the joint of steel
that helped you rise
and run again
Removed before cremation
or recovered from
your ashen bone
recycled as of further
use to what
and where we are

ground fine as memory
your name survives
your word of choice
our Dave  It lives for days
Soon I’m in the Lakes,
your Lakes  I feel you
pass me as I struggle
up each hill  At every
halt you stand, hands
on each hip, sweat
shining on your face
a challenge in your grin

Your day of days
brings all our lives
together in your end
We pack the crem
Spill out of doors
into the sun
All that survives of you
is here  Your boys,
your pals, and Lesley
playing you, performing
well your final script
So Anglo-Welsh and
full of grit, until
the end when as
herself she gives
permission for
your death to break
upon her
and us all

Your boys survive
Two fragments of yourself
and Jean, so different
and so evidently you
Pride fills our eyes
as secretly I guess
it filled your heart
at knowing who
they were, and where

We all must hold
a life as best we can
as best we can our own
And as we’ll never meet
again, together
in your name, pursue
our lives alone
And time will
not alone be kind,
and more and more
will go, as we together
in our turn  Whatever’s
sweet, or sad
will turn to nothing
in the end

And then only
implants, removed
before disposal
of remains

D. 15.5.2017

16 Acres and a Tree

Milton’s city of devils is now only noise and chaos,
but out of New Pandemonium comes the surprise
of peace. It’s here that capital and cunning reassured
itself, and brought two jets, piloted by amateurs –
demons, faith-fueled, hell-bent, prophet-bound.

Beneath the same sky we stand, look into the
same empty socket of God’s eye. Puzzled tourists,
pilgrims joined with others in wonder’s disbelief.
The air is free of blame, observes the same neutrality,
also supports the helo flights at 200 bucks a seat.

The two-acre bases of the absent towers stare
upwards. We all go there. Water pours into the
iris of a pool, then on into a void we cannot see.
Howie is our guide. He brings us here to listen.
An older, wiser man, the life he loved

he dedicated fighting fire, with fire still fights –
another voluntary role, as priest and visioneer.
Not present then, he lived to seek his friends,
to dig beyond the day of days, to play
lamenting pipes at funerals and wakes.

His future son-in-law survived. Most others died,
rescuing the hopeless – all cut off, brought down,
consumed. He tells it straight, shows us their names,
the cards that picture details of the scene.
He still keeps count of deaths that take

the people who survived to breathe again –
the choking dust that everything became as, in ten
seconds, steel, glass, concrete, plastic,
flesh and bone, came down. Grounded,
dust on dust. He fishes in his bag for images;

his memory for words to fix this day of life
he lives – and makes a modest thing of faith
and magic, creates a place that merely visiting
can’t bring. Here at what can almost not
be named because too many died, too much was

lost or even little learned, now gathers
a planned renewal of those promises and lives:
in lights that take the towers’ boxy shapes;
in streams that cascade and shatter in the deep
and darkened pools, a single stream for each

and every life; in names that get remembered,
on each birthday they no longer know, by single
rose, untouched; and light that bursts though windows,
staining bright a moment every year the second
that the towers fell. In any aftermath comes

cries for terrible redress – comes here a single
growing tree encouraged from the only shattered
trunk they found, and now a place of hope
and hunger, as all around rebuilds that city
in its acres, and its moneyed sharp-eyed dreams.


New York, March 2017