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3 poems by John Greening


Up here is where Broadview wants to harvest wind

(of which the Urals ensure a surfeit) unconcerned

that it’s also the base from which America chose to send

Flying Fortresses on bombing raids, that here marks

the place where some came back to stay. These concrete tracks

we use for jogging, walking the dog, riding our bikes,

were what they limped towards, their last approach

in line with the weather-cock on the spire of St Andrew’s Church,

whose bell today announces time. A sign in the porch

warns of incoming turbines. Think of history.

Think of natural beauty. No one mentions the mystery

of those helmeted aircrew on the tracks. It’s just a story.

Taken by Force

(after Goethe: ‘Mächtiges Überraschen’)

Out from a cloud-surrounded rocky hall

this gushing stream is in a rush to meet

Poseidon, not the least concerned what might

reflect in its descent, unstoppable.

But all at once that deity whose call

the whirling mountain winds obey, in spite

sends down her avalanche: its rocks create

a dam and so constrain the waterfall.

The torrent now retreats, frustrated foam

gives in, attacks again, then quaffs back up

towards the peak, cut off from its father’s sea.

And stops, become a lake at last, a home

for stars to gaze down into – waves as they lap

the cliffs – and see another way to be.

A Cautionary Tale

Good Friday, and I’ve been searching

for a windmill – for Jack and Jill,

for Cley, or maybe the one that salutes

as you crawl towards the M11

past military graves, but never

moves – like those nudes in the war

my father used to reminisce about.

As long as they were motionless,

it was Art. Nor is it the Nine

Maidens I am looking for

at Grafham Water, powering through

this early Easter stillness to an air

from Die Schöne Müllerin. They keep

swimming along the horizon, a white

arm raised, trying to warn

there is a cliff. I want a windmill

to charge at. Giants wait across

the Channel, creaking their ancient cry

of revolution, ready to dispel

Belloc’s vision, and be clear.


John Greening is a Bridport and Cholmondeley winner with over twenty collections, including The Silence (Carcanet, 2019) he has edited Grigson, Blunden, Crichton Smith & anthologies on music, sheds and country houses (with Kevin Gardner: Hollow Palaces, Liverpool, 2021). His essays, Vapour Trails, appeared in 2020 and there’s an American Selected next year.


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