The very first of autumn lies imminent across the country,
mist here, bronze there;
sycamores and beeches gather in the cool, early mornings
unravelling seed;
cars move through the fogs like beetles
feeling their way through dark water;
long barrels of exhausts putter in the long jams.

Great decay is patient. ‘To talk of trees’
said Brecht, ‘is to pass over
so many crimes in silence’.
Winter’s white fire will burn on the year’s dry fuel.

I remember the snow peaking to a mausoleum drift;
power-cables came down, and the roads were blocked.
The city became one sepulchre.
My thawed boots left footprints of water on the wooden floor.
Chinese vases in large glass cases,
cold wombs of cold air,
slept crisply by the untouched balustrades.

Curators now, we keep our museum state,
our preserved calm.
From our dumbened, snowdome homes,
we watch snowploughs in another world
moving across the tv screen
towards outlying farms,
threshing in a freezing grain.
Like grubs we lie, incubating in protein,
feeding outwards from within the egg;
we weather the winter, putting on fat,
warmed by coal fires.
Smoked bees, we drowse,
our wings folded
to honeycomb devotions.

Captain, who knows the armoured scales,
the surfeiting allusion,
stay your hand over the city
and the Muses’ bower;
come in with us; emulate Lysander
who spared Athens for Euripides
and burned the Athenian ships to a lovely music.

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