Baked in the sun
Beneath black-faced ivy,
Wearing it like improvised headgear.
A dog-rose climbed on the buttress,
Its delicate faces of linen
Lazy as ensigns in the fitful breeze.
The afternoon stretched into time,
Before and behind,
Ignored by the fingering moss
And crumbling pointing
As they mulled intensely over themselves.
Many lives had walked this lane
Mopping their eyes of the goad of sweat –
Its black pepper in the brilliant air.
But now there was only a silent stillness,
And my boot scuffing the turf.
Grizzled, sprawling, blunt as a gun,
This wall will survive
My translation to dust,
The years when I shall be kneaded
Into rich paste for brick.
It is ancient and lasting
As strong-walled Uruk –
That clamorous declamation
To the dust-and-khaki sky,
Sanctuary for cedars of Lebanon,
Water loud in its precincts.
Water was somewhere behind the wall,
Chronicling the passing of moments,
Clearing its throat of mud and leaf.
Uruk has gone into dust,
Snatched by Irkalla into the house of talons;
But the idea of England
Still lingered on this finger of land
Purpled by summer in the northern sea –
The grasshopper busy with screwdrivers,
The blackbird tugging at the worm of its song;
And the old stone wall, honey-red,
Smiling its tough smile
In the sunlight.
====================© July 1979