Sunday, 10 July 2016


This isn't a poem, as I gave up writing poetry a long time ago. It's a protracted thought, trying to make peace internally with the place I find myself. 

I am a Dorsetman. And my beloved county
has a brutal and a sacred past.
The Romans scoured it, fired arrowheads into Celtic backs at Maiden Castle.
Cromwell’s men shot the local lads on Hambledon Hill
where I pulled up the ragwort thirty years ago.
Six grim souls sat round the oak at Tolpuddle
to talk about a different sort of world
where a man earns enough to buy his children bread –
and they still sit there as we pass on the Dorchester road.

I am an Englishman. And my beloved country
has a brutal and a sacred past.
Battered one by Athelstan in the face of the Danes,
it grew from the fields a law, a sort of liberty, that never quite died
and the Normans never quite grasped.
Red and red ran the ditches around Towton – the ruins cried with crows – and crowns got smelted
In that first black blast-furnace at fiery Coalbrookdale.
That, and the ships, the billowing wooden ships,
were what we sent around the world.

I am a Briton. And my beloved union-state
has a brutal and a sacred past.
It was always the means by which the greater duped the lesser:
and yet the lesser mined it for their own advantage
and by some miracle recoined the frauds of Empire Day and Flag
into a kind of good,
and clambered into spitfires to defend it.
Somehow we escaped revolution. Somehow we evaded invasion.
Somehow we let go that stain across the globe we called an Empire,
and made what was left work, at least a bit, at least sometimes.

My county and my country and my union-state
are not the property of the brutes and the deceivers.
At the very least I have the right to share them.
Those flags, those bloody banners, are also mine,
And you, you will not seize them for your own.
They have a different ancestry from what you think,

and a different future.

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