for Tom Hughes
An uneasy combination of Sardinian wine
and Venus has risen over the petrol station.
Patterns of suburban shadows stretch away
under the brightness of the Pleiades,
between the dark continents of cloud that merge
in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette.
Somewhere a politician is looking up ‘bayonetting’
to see if it’s spelt with one t or two.
Somewhere a priest is studying results
of recent municipal elections.
The baby sleeps through the subsequent storm
among prints of elephants and penguins
while lousy bright-eyed dogs over the road
hunch between chained gates and lightning.
On the morning after the boy’s birth
the church’s grubby window illuminated
two gas cylinders tucked under the altar
and steps leading down to a dank, rectangular absence.
When the talk turns to baptism, I see the child
a thousand feet higher – a river flowing through
burnished ironstone pebbles and steep forest.
The river Sangro, twenty five paces wide,
shallow as water poured over the hands,
where they say wolves still come to drink at night.