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last update: 15th Mar 15

 

 

Searching for the Police Tower, Orford Ness                      Poem beginning with a line by Emily Dickinson

 

River Ouse, Rodmell, 1941                      The Last

 

Searching for the Police Tower, Orford Ness

By the rust road, a lattice strip of iron. Red-clad.
A dozen more, bent and furred between sea edge
and the Black Beacon: coils of crude traceries
 
discarded like mis-shapes. All objects wrestle
themselves in this easterly wind. The North Sea
heaves stones from their comfortable silence
 
up to the spit and the weathered calls of lapwings.
Once it was a humdrum of bombs. Top Secret.
Remains of binoculars, a petrol pump. Photos show
 
a meccano skeleton, listing but still on the map.
A concrete bunker’s dark mouth breathes a stink
of dereliction, down among the yellow poppies.
 
Something pathetic about the security gates, stuck
open and the fence gone. Touch nothing suspicious.
The police left in a hurry. Undercover barn owls,
 
in the eaves of Test Lab 5, wait for the ghosts
of scientists to magic saltpetre into freshwater.
The threat of unexploded ordnance moves us.
 
But I forget why we came here. Radio tower,
police tower, old business? Spat out onto shingle
with the rest, like every wreck that lost itself to water.
 

Robin Houghton

Winner of the 2014 Stanza Poetry Competition and published on the Poetry Society website



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Poem beginning with a line by Emily Dickinson

Make me a picture of the sun:
a collage. Use what comes to hand:
yellow dusters edged in red
and orange zest to represent
the summer high noon overhead
blaze that burns the backs of ears,
mix with salt sweat and chalk
from the cliffs, narcissus petals,
the pale yolk of an egg when stale,
add all the unwanted Yellow Pages,
history’s turncoats, jaundiced faces
Doris Day songs, a little blond hair.
It will be big and bright and hot.
It will be bigger than its parts.
They will see it in the Arctic Circle,
in all the dark places, from space.
 

Robin Houghton

published in Brighton Stanza Anthology, 2013, Bramley Press



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River Ouse, Rodmell, 1941

The first she prises out, clenched in bindweed:
reluctance adds to its appeal.
 
And there: not so large as to burst pockets,
several flints conspire
 
their surfaces glass-perfect, all the better
to slip in without fuss.
 
From mud, she frees a stump of the fat chalk Down
walked each day, as worn
 
as the worsted that parcels up her reedy body
ready for anchoring.
 
Pebbles lean into her, take us they say, take us,
the floods are coming
 
but like Noah she must leave some behind,
the unbelievers.
 

Robin Houghton

in collection, The Great Vowel Shift, 2014, Telltale Press, ISBN 978-0-8827555-0-5;
first published in Agenda, Vol 46 No. 2, Autumn 2011;
and in anthology Poems from the Old Hill, 2012, Frogmore Press,
ISBN 978-0-9570688-1-0



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The Last

They’ve been coming since posters were invented:
sometimes in dreams, to the tipping of cowboy hats
 
or dressed in Liverpool shirts. Each one appeared
in my diary, in code. My mother wouldn’t explain,
 
I couldn’t ask. And still they would come, insistent.
They left my body as they found it: I never wanted
 
them to stay, or change things. It’s been a while since
I wrote a diary. I donít know how many there were,
 
I wasn’t counting. Too busy getting on with
the business of getting on. For the last, though,
 
I would have thrown a party, marked the occasion
in some way, worn something red, if I had known.
 

Robin Houghton

in collection, The Great Vowel Shift, 2014, Telltale Press, ISBN 978-0-8827555-0-5;
previously published in The Rialto, 75, Jul 2012



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