Below Snatts Lane

Our spun dogs leapt
into a hidden swank*
only reappearing – only –
when cooled
by that glum – that cold –
woodland pond

Their wet coats stunk
Quick on spindle legs
they fast-darted in
and faster beneath
another clump of
undergrowth

Not late enough – not then –
for mist-above-dusk
over heat-sucked ditches
and almost rivers
Not late enough to rise
from dew weighted grass

We followed those routes –
those laid before
by others and left those
laid behind by us
We were those last two
travellers on earth

*swank – Sussex term for wetlands

Fighting in Newhaven

Here Ho Chi Minh – under
his pseudonym of Thàn
served travellers’ pastries
on a French ship routed
from Newhaven’s docks

His silver service ways
and polished tableware
have been long-buried
under that now piled skyline
of scrap metal and waste

Still a French ferry – but today
slipping out to diesel rumbles –
with beer-plied pleasure seekers –
holidaymakers – and
a deck of saturnine truckers

In this light a ghost-white hull –
Turner’s Fighting Temeraire
awaits clearance to enter
and roll her weak bow wave
through her last high tide

But she is no more than a fret
breathed out by those who lust
for lost British sea power
This slumped harbour reeks
of sun-dried fishing nets

Below its fort’s high facade
Newhaven’s battalion collapsed –
West Beach fell to le Tricolore
Sussex were druv when a strip
of her sand was lost to France

It would be easy to follow steps
and reach an edge of this island
but stupor and heat keep me seated
Rust is pre-eminent in Newhaven
There is no revolutionary cure

Above Glynde Reach

I picked a bent path of grass treads
between time’s tipped-hat stones
in St. Andrew’s – Beddingham’s
dry-high whispering graveyard

It hasn’t absorbed any rising tidal
surge or sudden winter wash – of
God’s clearing-out-no-chance-flood
since He-knows-when-of-last

Once vagrants were listed here
in this river-fashioned parish
in a sub-Lewes rolled distance –
68 villains, 6 bordars and 5 slaves

Now Major and Mrs. lie thigh-to-thigh
in parallel places under that shadow
of repurposed stone and fixings –
another bypass and road of sorts

as cars hurtle at a throw’s distance
taking travelling parishioners
beyond unmarked boundaries
without a detour to see bowed stones