Of Lost & Found Cities

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Of Lost & Found Cities

Nineveh and Babylon have crumbled into dust,
Carthage, Ur and Jericho are pillars in the sand;
Once they were such glories, true – bustling and august –
But now reduced to legends and faint markings on the land.
London, though, is still alive, still growing and unplanned,
Not like dead Persepolis, where only mem’ry roams.
Ephesus and Ashkelon are sinking, gust by gust.
Luxor, Thebes and Memphis, now preserved in ancient tomes,
Sumer, Sardis, Akkad and Knossos are unmanned.
London, though, is standing yet, and just as grim and grand.
Middle-aged, with stuccoed bays and stock-brick-golden domes;
Humble tracks now avenues, from Oxford Street to Strand,
Yet keeps forever youthful as it builds and fells its homes.
Many structures barely make a century’s employ,
Ere yet another edifice is raised upon its bones;
And so King’s Cross and Bishopsgate, and Knightsbridge and Savoy
Have thus by slow rebuilding changed their slates and paving-stones.
Once an early city stood, whose name we still enjoy,
But now that ancient London’s quite as lost as Kish and Troy.



The Queen of the Cockles

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The Queen of the Cockles

Fine scallops and oysters
For townlands and cloisters,
And cockles and mussels – alive, sirs, alive !
Come find one and pluck it
From out of my bucket –
It’s yours for a penny – or fourpence for five.

…………Fresh from the beaches of fair Dublin Bay,
…………Fresh from the sands where they thrive, oh !
…………Fresh from the beaches, and fresh ev’ry day –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !

There’s no need to scrimp it
With whelk or with limpet –
I’ll sell you no snails, sir – I’m clams through and through.
Don’t ask me for sprinkles
Of peries or winkles –
Why settle for one shell, when you can have two !

…………Fresh from the wash of the fair Irish Sea,
…………Plucked-out as soon they arrive, oh !
…………Fresh from the sand to the boat to the quay –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !

There’s some who dig beaches
For lugworms and leaches,
But they make a slimy and wrigglesome catch.
And scampi and crab, sir,
Will scamper and jab, sir –
But mine are like eggs that are waiting to hatch !

…………Fresh from where seagulls love combing the sand,
…………Fresh from where cormorants dive, oh !
…………Fresh from Portmarnock and Dollymount Strand –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !

So what do you say, sir,
To venus or razor ?
Just tease-out my beauties with jack-knife or steam.
They may hold a pearl, sir,
A feast for your girl, sir,
You’ll soon warm her cockles with cockles in cream !

…………Fresh from the beaches of fair Dublin Bay,
…………Fresh for your ladies and wives, oh !
…………Fresh-in from Skerries and Claremont and Bray –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !



Doves & Cockerels

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Doves & Cockerels

…………(A Tale from the 80s)

Born, bred and boarded in England, by chance,
Yet closer to Calais than Canterb’ry town –
Where the Channel keeps nibbling the chalky-white Downs,
And keeps her from cycling to France.
Trapped by La Manche
From Dunkirk to Rennes –
But still she stays staunch:
La Douvresienne !

Douze ans is she, in the town of her birth,
And watched by the Castle that keeps her kept here.
But the bright lights of Calais are teasingly near –
Yet somehow they’re out past the end of the earth.
Trapped by the rosbifs
Like Jeanne d’Arc back when –
This unwilling hostage:
La Douvresienne !

She lives by the gateway, she lives by the quay,
And watches the French as they come off the ferries
In Deux-Chevaux Citroëns and bob-cuts and berets,
With bœuf bourguignon and bagettes bearing brie.
She mimics their movement
Agen and agen,
With steady improvement:
La Douvresienne !

When the weather is right and the signal is clear,
She re-tunes her black-and-white into their station
And watches in awe at the sights of a nation,
And wishes she understood all she can hear.
She mimics their voices,
Both women and men.
She makes the right noises:
La Douvresienne !

But their language is tricky to lodge in her head
All accents and commas and genders to test her,
And sometimes it’s only a shrug or a gesture –
It’s just like their spelling, there’s so much unsaid.
She’s learning at school
With the rest of Class 10.
She’s sounding so cool
Is La Douvressienne !

She fancies herself as a Mademoiselle,
But family hist’ry declares her a Miss
But what do they know of Gainsbourg or Matisse ?
It’s more than genetics that makes her a belle.
It’s more than a pose
For this proud Madeleine:
She’s no English Rose,
But La Douvresienne !