The Lives of the Cousins


The snaps are in black and white, of course,
Few captions, the album-covers scuffed,
But Kitty and Joyce still smile their smiles
From a speedboat tethered by stone steps
In what has the look of a Swiss lake.
One page on and Derek at a picnic
Strains facetiously to draw a cork,
And General Sawyer in dinner jacket
Poses by the rear door of a Daimler.
(It was he who without explanation
In a late codicil to his will
Left me an old-fashioned naval spyglass,
Presumably for looking at stars.
But I have never been a stars person,
Preferring to train my objective
On the bay windows across the townland.)
Hermione and Julius on a cruise
Fill several sheets ? games on the boat-deck
And eager Arabs in djellabiyas
Pestering the tourists in Port Said.
Then to badminton at Cowes, and drinks
On Graham’s destroyer in the Solent.

It was not like that – nor is it now –
In New Ross or the herbaceous valleys
That trail down from Carlow and Kilkenny,
Where the livestock stand dumbly around
Under broad-leaved trees in the demesnes
And the Nore slides swiftly over crowfoot.
In these parts there is not much call
For cigarette-holders or shady hats.
The creamery coughs from before dawn
And all day the foreigners’ meat lorries
Rumble and thud along the main street.
Though I shoot with a couple of Councillors
And the Principal of the Tech,
A brace of woodcock is small return
For hours of damp shoulders and cold feet.
But asylum resides in the office ?
Virginia-creepered, shabby but warm ?
Where my pink-cheeked secretary sits
Typing out conveyances and wills.
Drinking my morning coffee, I observe
Her bosom snug in Botany wool
And her reassuringly thick legs.

For Selected Poems 9-15: from Who Goes There? (Faber & Faber, 1996), © Fergus Allen 1996, used by permission of the author.

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