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The Cavalcantine Lure.

And Six More Poems.



The Cavalcantine Lure.1

A PRETTY FACE, the very heart of reason,
the expert’s dry indifference to rank,
the song of birds and lovers’ reasoning
and boats lit all along the southern bank.
Purest air; dawn’s first whitest hour
and white snow falling where there is no wind,
backwaters and meadows gemmed with flowers
– gold and silver with sea-blue gems inlaid.

Match such, the poet says with your spare praise
of love, or the one who’s loved, and his words
are red-hot coals that we can walk across;
like sunlit metal, the pealing bells heard
clearly in the twilight of years and days
with talk of songs and stings, of heart and loss.


Above Genoa.2

IT’S FROM A dream this landscape and I’m waiting
for some ghost of mine to jump. I know the way
it feels when floating out, the gasp at missing
jutting rocks, the trees, how long it seems to take
to reach the mindless grey. The laughter in thin air.
But here the evidence of work as well, this solid life
spent building into hills. Even this blue water
looks real as history, as hopeful in its wealth.

And it’s the real world we’re walking in, where
you can read novels about fucking and despise
how words decay. We climbed here by funicular
but, on the road, teenagers lift the throttles of
their Vespas to a pitch of monstrous dialectic.
Look, inland to where the new roads cut the valley,
or, where the land resists, break rock. Follow
with your eye commerce, its graceful directives.

It must be the air or the early sunshine but there
are lungfuls of hope inside me in spite of this world.
I came for the view that’s inside me where cities
run their smooth affairs like a socialist bus,
where work is kindly barter, a social exchange
and every cheese has flavour. I am happy
where the horizon is indistinct and news in
another language. This is quite unlike a dream.


The Border.3

THE QUEUE MIGHT take an hour we’re told.
Meanwhile, there’s this form to fill, a relic of the recent past.
Currency, traveller’s cheques, purpose of visit.
On the seat behind, you doze at last,
your glasses slipping down your nose,
the adventure discarded on your lap,
crumpled between your elbow and the seat.

It’s your birthday and we’re crossing to a new landscape.
This morning we saw harvests piled on rolling plains,
the chimneys of collective bakeries,
sheds where cattle live out secret lives indoors.
Now the afternoon unfolds on strips of field
where horses pull a plough
and hay’s stooked in tidy decorated sheaves.

They put up the signs to Helsinki
the year that you were born. We watched
hesitant steps break into a confident
uneven run, the beginnings of self-control.
New choices will be made, unmaking the past,
and you, half-grown, rub your eyes awake
to a new country, another year in which to live.


The Milky Way.4

THE MARBLE FEATURES of the Parthenon frieze
The marbl aren’t the only things
to seem flatter and greyer since the summer
The marbl you were sixteen.

O’Driscoll remembers the white bicycles
The marbl those other Provos
left on Amsterdam street corners for free
The marbl and common use.

There were pictures from museums on the train
The marbl and songs of that time
in the background, the five days we crossed
The marbl from the Stedelijk

to Jordaan’s brown cafés. It was later though,
The marbl with wanted posters
for the Red Army Fraction pasted on a wall
The marbl at the terminus.

There were screams in the night, soft cheese
The marbl and jam at breakfast.
A tape of Bukka White barely troubled the
The marbl glittering meniscus

of your genever, or the couple chopping a black
The marbl cube into silver-
paper deals: their downy daughter snoozing
The marbl on the bar.

We shared a four bunk room with transients
The marbl waiting to buy a car.
Stavros and his cousin were ready to go home
The marbl – after a decade

in New York, struggling with electronics and
The marbl English, repairing
beat-up radios, lecturing on Ritsos – to go home
The marbl to the free use

of their tongue. O’Driscoll is easing his way
The marbl into the story
of his second time in Holland – peace week
The marbl at the Melkweg.

Did his disarmament play leave the audience stunned
The marbl or were they stoned,
like the actors, staring at significant intervals
The marbl between words?

He wants to tell us about the boat-trip back to Hull,
The marbl how they disposed
of the stuff – fear and the North Sea at night.
The marbl I am looking

in your eyes at a different year and the dark
The marbl sea off Naxos,
a high glittering sky and its reflection,
The marbl like a window

opening in our marriage, the evening’s gifts
The marbl scattered freely,
like the broad and unmourned highway
The marbl of spilt milk.


Working from Home.5

French doors a WATCHING THROUGH THE open
French doors and conservatory glass, these birds queuing
French doors a at the feeder, pecking
and spitting out nuts and seeds, submissively anointing
French doors a their forefeathers
in the drinking bowl, I tidy a table, content with
French doors a what’s brought us here:
times of waiting or worry, or losing our patience,
French doors a and days like these
when someone takes the children out and someone stays
French doors a with papers to read.
One day you’re at the wave-pool. Spread out on the floor
French doors a are coursework folders:
teenage fiction, research on street-gangs, someone’s response
French doors a to Wesker’s Roots
and Hamid’s painful, broken story of escaping from Tehran.
French doors a Shootings, disappearances,
a Pepsi Cola lorry overturned, unclean, its sticky bubbly fluid
French doors a running in the streets.
Another day you’re working. In the Science Museum
French doors a Sam, Benedict and I
start the combine harvester, make counterweights for bridges
French doors a or launch a rocket.
Inside one case an Edsel; further on the crooked foot-digger
French doors a Hebridean crofters
called a caschcrom. By raising or lowering a handle,
French doors a those too poor to plough
determined the depth of the groove they needed to cut
French doors a in the sparse soil,
then gripped the wooden shaft and kick-started the share
French doors a I was writing some review
that Saturday you and the children went to London Zoo.
French doors a Waiting in line
for llama rides, you thought you recognised the smiling, neat
French doors a and prematurely balding man
holding his son’s hand just ahead, steadying him in the cart.
French doors a It turned out not to be,
you realised on the train coming home, another parent
French doors a from the local school,
but the man who’d won the Booker Prize for Midnight’s Children.
French doors a Now you’re upstairs
writing a reference for a nurse in your Literature class,
French doors a while I chop onions
and listen for our not quite warring sons. Though
French doors a the author of Shame
might fear to be seen with a child in public and the enclosing,
French doors a impoverishing mind
shouts ‘Kill the Ba’hais’ or plans forced migrations, at evening
French doors a perennial birdsong
brightens our garden. It doesn’t make everything right, but
French doors a makes it easier,
the children bathed and read to, easier to touch another’s hand,
French doors a or speak quietly,
so when night does come what we notice is an arc of moonlight
French doors a curved by the ribbed
plastic roof above us – no rainbow or triumphal arch, but
French doors a what work tends toward –
efforts of love: attention, desire, holding darkness at bay.


A True Story.6

UP! HIGH! THE child laughs pointing through the window
Up! Hi at the two birds in the guttering that runs under
Up! Hi the grey slate roof.

The white bird with its mobile head monitoring the street;
Up! Hi the young grey-feathered bird scuttering end-to-end.

‘The situation is beyond control’, Councillor Brown (Locals
Up! Hi First) addresses the meeting. He need not remind them
Up! Hi of the incident at the harbour.

‘We want our town back’, he is sputtering, scanning the hall.
Up! Hi ‘The time has come for a cull!’

The white herring gull is dragging a knotted white plastic bag
Up! Hi from the fly-tipped pile behind the disused phone-box
Up! Hi pulling and scratching as it goes.

It takes four gulls screeching and tugging to tear it apart
Up! Hi and feast on the leftover Chinese takeaway.

Miss Dawson (Liberal Elect) reminded the meeting of the
Up! Hi recent oil spillage. The effort and expense
Up! Hi undertaken in the aftermath.

Cleaning feathers with a toothbrush and detergent.
Up! Hi ‘Surely this showed us at our best?’

GPS tracking of birds in the town revealed a nesting
Up! Hi site in the cinema currently showing
Up! Hi Finding Dory.

The gull population, which is native not migratory,
Up! Hi consists of 239 breeding pairs.

Doctor Triomphe (Third Way) offered the assembly
Up! Hi his preferred solution: a transparent ceiling.
Up! Hi A dome of rare device:

using recycling technology, guano a key constituent.
Up! Hi The gulls would pay for the roof!

Ha-ha-ha! Meeeeww! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!
Up! Hi Keow! Keow!
Up! Hi Huoh-huoh-huoh.

Klee-ew? Klee-ew? Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!
Up! Hi Meeeeww! Huoh-huoh-huoh.



‘AHOY’, THE SAILOR calls, ‘Ahoj!
paddling his kayak downriver
a million metres from the sea.
Are those gulls or swifts following him
shadowed by the repurposed tower?

In the stone town, arches of stone
fan out above with peach shades
of sunlight streaming through the glass.
It is a long afternoon but not endless.

Look here is a picture of Barbara
Radziwill – pale, bejewelled and
not long to live. And, look, the ash
of Monet’s cigarette refuses
to fall as he outstares his canvas.

The girls and boys of the village
rocked in their two-seater swings.
The city’s steam-whistle reached them
slowly through the woods and lanes.

Our bridges cross rivers whose courses
have shifted. Warehouses turn into galleries.
It’s pleasing to loosen the ties
of where we came from, replacing syke
and sheugh with biro brio samizdat.

Memorial plaques glitter in the
gap-toothed streets of renamed districts.
We follow the shifting electric display
spread out in the blood-streaked sky.

Hoardings appear with dates picked out
in a lightbulb array. 1848 and
Lajos Kossuth feels the century
turning against him. 1898 and
General Blanco announces El Desastre.

And Jean-Jacques is still botanizing near
Ménilmontant, caught in a reverie
between that which is no longer
and that which is often not to be.

How can one not look back on the
closed train, the manifesto lacking
a clause, an advancing popolo
chanting to an old Lombard tune?
Glories lost to a poundshop Gloriana.

Where are the accordions and clarinets
or has something already happened
so we hardly recognise these buildings:
town hall, hospital and school?

Why only trombones and a bass
drum, as we view from the stern
of the ferry the coastline slipping away?

Tim Dooley is a tutor for the Poetry School and was Reviews Editor of Poetry London between 2008 and 2017. His most recent collections are The Sound We Make Ourselves (2016) and Weemoed (2017).

Published with “Poetry written in Britain’s ‘long moment’, a ‘conversation’ with Peter Robinson”.


  1. published in Keeping Time (Salt, 2008) and The Sound We Make Ourselves (Eyewear, 2016)
  2. published in The Interrupted Dream (Anvil, 1985) and Imagined Rooms (Salt, 2010)
  3. published in Keeping Time (Salt, 2008) and The Sound We Make Ourselves (Eyewear, 2016)
  4. published in Keeping Time (Salt, 2008) and The Sound We Make Ourselves (Eyewear, 2016)
  5. published in Imagined Rooms (Salt, 2010) and The Sound We Make Ourselves (Eyewear, 2016)
  6. published in Weemoed (Eyewear, 2017)
  7. published in Weemoed (Eyewear, 2017)

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