1478: 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

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