Poetic Licence: The Hidden Country
Friday 30 April 1999
Not in any guidebook ever published
Nor in trendy listings maps or files
Pictured, packaged, paragraphed
Will you find the treasures of these isles
Their names are half-forgotten
Their pleasures partly private
And their distance is in crows-flight
not in miles.
The City on a Sunday in December
Though walk in early morning if you go
Down Threadneedle Street
In sharpened sunlight
Upon the poorest powdering of snow
With petrol-headed pigeons
From shadows blue as bruises
On dirty vaults of London down below.
Or Dunwich in the galleon of the autumn
The last East Anglian port without a quay
Where ruined by the rapine of the ocean
A medieval city used to be
Its ancient lords and ladies
The boneflecks in the shingle
Its churchbell clappers tolling undersea.
All along the sheep-tracks over downland
The jingle-harnessed ghosts of pilgrim spring
Or from a train, the teatime lights of Swansea
Allotment sheds, a child on a swing.
A market under arches
The traders chapped and cheerful
Long in the red and long-past worrying.
A guidebook never gets the hidden Britain
The depthless tarns, the circles from the air
The crumbling brick-lined pit
Found in a farmyard
Its grating to restrain some long-dead bear.
The writers drugged or drowning
The rockstars crashed and burned
The country haunts itself.
Why should it care?
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