Paul Nash, Landscape
Railway tracks hemmed in by tranquil greenery
Lean and disappear into a fascinating curve
Even the derelict factories with corrugated roofs
And shattered walls possess a kind
Of enigmatic charm.
So, too, the horses grazing in the last of the day’s sun.
The world, they say, is too much with us
But now for once it seems to be just right,
With trees and spires and pylons standing tall
Spread out tonight for all of us to share
While a lonely airplane coming in to land cannot disturb
The perfect stillness of this summer night.
A Telegram for Oscar Wilde
There was a place called Europe long ago
Where no man saw corruption anywhere,
But England’s tangled quantum engineer
Dismantled the impossible machine and then
Betrayed a thousand hollow beads of zinc
Permanganate; your Queen is just a circuit-board
Who tries to navigate with trust naïve
A legal maze they call the rule of six;
No more does England’s great Republic show.
Witness the cynics, champions
Of Cromwell’s polished reputation, while
The double agent in his painted portico
Enjoys the stolen picture of ambassadors.
How comes it that a just and fair estate
Has been wiped out by private equity
Whose barren merchandise piles up the gate
Where genuine ideas and true should enter by:
Else might we still be Milton’s heritors
‘Bending’ at the Whitworth
The figure bends before an unseen God; time does not pass
To mark the seasons drifting on his face. Somewhere inside
This frozen man there lies a vaulted arch, the relic of an Empire
Whose rules were sent and made for us to bend; behold
The hollow polysulphone beads, each one
A tiny grain of possibility; half-full of angled dreams
That drift away the moment we awake. Last night I found
The blueprint for a flask of destiny, with fluorinated lecithin
Escaping slowly from the prison tray on which our meals are served.
The Rule of Six will keep us safe, we throw the dice
And then decide which face we want to wear. The clock is filled
With hollow moments magnetised, each one
No sooner held than it is lost. The Empire of which
We dreamed is just a book of fading maps. It still looks good,
But everybody knows that looks can kill.