in life’s calculus

the aggregation of loss is zero

the sum total of lost things is nought

get used to losing things

declares Elizabeth Bishop in One Art

for the art is in remembering

but there’s no joy in absences

nothing is lost without loss

a dead lover

haunts your dreams now

illness finally consumed him

secrets from beyond

tell nothing unknown

and not much that is

love remembered a one-way street

receding into the past

my twin perpetually grinning

in the mirror of our life

from conception face to face

until death foretold

at Drimfern Inveraray

eating gravel in his stoop

when his heart stopped

his barbour jacket with his smell

on its peg inside the door

my father face down

in the leaflitter of the gully at Maroota

the fall’s force puncturing his brain

news conveyed by phone

grief released

in that front paddock

of stripped oats at Gundaroo

revisiting David’s farm Gunnas Gunya

driving the dirt track through scrub

located by intuition rather than recollection

after this time deserted

his MG TC abandoned in the barn

that front paddock bare

not lost just misplaced


I could (I suppose) have been there

but unlikely    the station was demolished

in 1966 comprehensively and insensitively

intones a history written by train buffs

I have visited the area many times

on my first the ground crunched

under my step in winter

through the fence across the hoar

on the way to a country pub for lunch

I read those Dannie Abse poems readily available

casually passing through a familiar landscape

then later in the novel I was re-reading *

a character takes his lover in hand

to that poem where nothing happens Adlestrop 

I think he’s got his Welsh poets mixed

not Edward Thomas but Abse

Not Adlestrop as I remember

then I see the linkage expressed

but not acknowledged and it all becomes clear

speeding down the Cotswold Line

from Oxfordshire to Gloucestershire

 *Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan


After Dannie Abse


that miscellany of lost things

a pint of Brains at Cardiff Arms Park

donkey rides at Porthcawl

tickets to the eisteddfod

Sully TB hospital Penarth

the lonely gum in Roath Park

planted in our dad’s memory

without approval


the pull to return

banished with the 50 foot tides

by the Cardiff Bay barrage

the stink of mud flats

speckled with boats

no more now the harbour’s neutered

gone with GKN’s steelworks at East Moors

along with most of the jobs in town

our dad’s first job post war


Sunday drives in the Vauxhall

windows fogged

the stench of the works and the docks

by Tiger Bay

that old family game who farted

now glass and shiny surfaces

flash boats moored in the bathtub

travellers moved on from their wasteland


all gone until the satellite map

closes on our Llanrumny street unvisited

and then the fence I remember running past

blurred as on my first day at school