Special Offer

The commercial you are watching -
don’t change the channel, please -
will illustrate the features
of Huntington’s disease.
Our product’s unobtrusive.
You may not see a sign
but once we start that’s twenty years’
inexorable decline.
Your mum seems strangely lazy,
your husband’s in a mood,
your grandma’s having trouble
in managing her food.
The symptoms of frustration
are hardly to be borne
until your prayers are answered
and all feeling is withdrawn.
It’s a deadly diagnosis –
who wants to face the worst?
Some seem to live in ignorance,
some realise they’re cursed.
But that’s the choice we offer.
We think we’re here to stay
so – will you look us in the eye
or will you turn away?

Renoir at Moulin Huet

Not Normandy this time. Guernsey is near
but warmer, with a golden August glow;
a mix of greens on granite greys that fall
incisive, slanting in the turquoise sea.
He finds this bay and stalks it like a deer.
Quick glimpses, as each twist along the track
unearths his prey, allows his sights to wheel
on to a different line, a fresh attack.
He loves the giggling girls, the way they squeal
galloping into waves, no hint of shame,
young creatures in the wild running free.
One month, and fifteen canvases. Some haul.
He drags his bulging bag of captured game
back to the kitchen of his studio.

Front

for Edward Thomas

Don’t be afraid to let your feelings show
I tell the men. Although I have to read
your letters home, don’t let that make you cold
towards your loved ones. Tell them that you care.
I’m one to talk. What can I tell my wife,
my precious girls, the son I hardly know...?
is a clarity in army life
which even in this godforsaken place
gives me the sense of purpose that I need.
An end in view. At least I shan’t grow old.
I seem to be commanding. No-one knows
I write continuously, fill up the space
with only capitals to mark the moments where
my lines dive down, pretending to be prose.

Exile

Hugo ends up in Guernsey, forced to roam
because he can’t shut up. He’s on the run
with royalties enough to build a home.
“Three-storey autograph” - so says his son.
He raids the junk shops, finds chinoiserie,
commissions carving from a ton of oaks,
laying a trail of personality –
a lover’s secrets, Latin mottoes, jokes.
Up at the lighthouse top, he claims a den
where freedom’s champion can work all day,
then sleep. The mistress, and the family,
recede. Will Garibaldi come to stay?
Occasionally, he rests his busy pen,
stares out into the blue, where France must be.