The Scale of Change

From the proto-communist ‘Diggers’ of Surrey, through to Thomas Bewick’s radical Tyneside and on to a wet St George’s Day in Dover, the opening sequence, ‘Class’, offers a ‘condition of England’ poem for our times: as light and readable as it is ambitious in scope. The second half of this book, ‘Rembrandt’s Last Pupil’, quietly reveals an aesthetic which proves to be no less political and contemporary. Together the two sections provide the scale on which this collection subtly and poignantly measures change.

Wren Churches

I loved them –

cleared of clutter

mainly solid blackened oak

keeping reflection

to itself

made to be seen

discreetly

teach you

for the first time

how perspective works

and if the organ

piped up its patterns

and the cupola at last

cupped hand to ear

to bring you Bach

you understood

how god was moved

out of the machine

turned into proportion

balance and scale

how measurement took over

angle and leverage

structure depth and weight

like the sentences

of Pope

repeat develop vary

pause extend

and counter

return and reinstate

then close

*

and round the corner

as that poet dreaded

paper money

moved

so unsubstantial

long before the first

computer

all the world’s wealth

passed through here

like flour down a funnel

packed and stored

and sent across the water

then sent back

multiplied

by millions

the Amerindians

the Gold Coast captives

some noble savages

located near Tahiti

paid the price

you almost hear it

if you listen closely

travelling round

St Paul’s dome

as a whisper

***

A Question of Scale

not of balance

but of proportion

how great

and how small

all that there is

held in the crook

of a finger

all that happens

no more than dust

by a road

how big our faces

seen in mirrors

how small

when waving back

no need to adjust

a scale

it forms around you

provided you look

and know

if you can

how long

your eyes may settle

and when

to turn back