Section IV: Brighton and beyond

Brighton reminds me, often, of Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself'
I began to write about Brighton when I started two days a week as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Sussex. When the weather was bad I got the bus, when it was good I cycled. I live off the Lewes Road. It's busy, quirky, a bit run down. As I stood at the bus stop I began to see it in a way I hadn't done before and one morning saw a semi-naked man running down the road waving two carrots.  The poems began coming and although the carrot poem didn't make it, along with several others, those that survive in this section come from my life in Brighton, including the second poem, a companion to 'Return', that was fed by wishing I knew something about my mother's mother. She knows very little either.

It took me several years to write 'Funeral Horses', the last poem in the book. I live close to the cemetery gates but when both my neighbours died, I needed to remember them. This poem doesn't do that directly, but like me, they were familiar with the sight and sounds of these horses just feet from our gardens.

THE AIR ON LEWES ROAD

Let the air remember how it was when wives lugged the catch 
to Lewes on the fish route, the road glinting with scales 
as if time itself was in their baskets among the herring.

Let the viaduct reassemble arch by arch
and the Level bonfire reignite to consume its effigies.

Let the air resurrect the Bernard Oppenheimer Diamond Works 
for amputees, the pill factory, Reverend Wagner’s home for prostitutes, 
the pease pudding and faggot shop.

Let the silent film stars return to the old Arcadia –
Mae Murray in Altars of Desire, Molly Malone in The Soul Herder.


Let the air genuflect at the altar of St Martin’s 
designed by H. Ellis Wooldridge,
with its 69 statues carved in Oberammergau.


Let us kneel to the dead carried to the crematorium 
by Ray Trafford of Skinners, my aunt among them.

Let the air feed poets Albert E. Coppard,
New Elizabethan, and Brendan Cleary of Bear Road, 

the gyratory village and the Gladstone.

Let the elms breath the same air as in the beginning 
when lines of saplings pledged magnificent avenues.

Let the air scatter into pavement cracks, parking bays, 
blue as borage, morning glory, delphiniums, 
forget-me-nots, creeping bellflower, self-heal. 

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