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March the Fifth 2013

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this is the day –
6am start
hot ginger and lemon
and a brisk walk

spellbound in fog the Bristol bus
climbs to Green Ore
descends through vanishing trees
to Chewton Mendip

with its one shop
stone houses
drystone walls
crows on frozen furrows

a slow ascent to the summit
a low sun reddens the east
mist cancels the view westward
to the estuary

stoic oaks
and a weeping ash
are caught mid-drama
as by a camera-flash

Bristol basks sunlit
under blue sky
half-tide mud glistens
gulls cruise snatch and gulp

at Temple Meads
young men jump off the bus
desperate to light up
hastily-unpocketed fags

Wear a daffodil
Make a difference

in the Bus Station
pigeons scavenge
among discarded cardboard
coffee-cups

the M5 is sclerotic
constricted by cones
clogged by diggers
gagged with plastic tape

we repeatedly crawl past
and are passed by
the same half-dozen
articulated trucks

and pull in behind the last
as two lanes become one
and lost time accumulates
mile by mile

sun warms my right side
to the left lie frosted fields
and the chunky undulating
shadow of the coach

slender stems of birch
and coppiced hazel
willows bearing airy
spheres of mistletoe

south of Gloucester
a river brims
between raised banks
of pale winter grass

the driver’s day-glo vest
stains cloudless blue
or trawls a sulphur ghost
through roadside woodland

an interminable road
leads into Birmingham –
shops and houses twelve feet wide
side by side by side by side

– there’s number one thousand
six hundred and forty two –
a man could be on his own street
and miles from home

in Birmingham
an unfinished drink
an exchange of smiles
a change of coach

we flyover rails
canals warehouses
tessellations of containers
and modular retail sheds

the M6 comes with
more cones
more diggers
and speed-restrictions

jangle of ring-tones
music from leaky earphones
electronic games
chatter of Asian voices

in Staffordshire a river
catches the sky
in its slow loops
between ash and willow

cows on a green hill
horses in overcoats
red sandstone soil
freshly-turned

birches’  white bark
and auburn twigs
fields of stubble
a soiled and faded gold

a wall of conifers
yellow tracery of willow
slim buds ready to spring
young oaks with rusty leaves intact

landscape so flat
this must be Cheshire
it’s mid-day
the coach has lost its shadow

in a suburban cemetery
new graves are bright with posies
flags and balloons are tied
to the perimeter fence

small narcissi bloom
in clumps under roadside trees
a group of cherry-plums
in abundant sugar-pink blossom

four cranes are at work
yellow red green and grey
rooks are nesting high in a tree
beside the Premier Inn

and this is Manchester
where I clutch my Google-map
like a talisman
but don’t know which way to turn

a quiet African
shows me the way
and this is the day
a day of remembering

of pilgrimage
and of fasting
of losing myself
and finding my place

among red stone and stained glass
and pages that speak of
what it is to be human
in a world of rage

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