One Nation



The place hasn’t changed. Things are in their place.
Things remain exactly what they were: just things.
Home comforts are what we expect of home.

Sunlight hovers on walls, remaining sunlight
even when spread on pavements. Our keel is more or less even.
Our clothes are comfortable simply because they’re our clothes.

Back to front, front to back we go, until we’re back
at the front. We try to preserve a united front.
Here is where we are: our place is always here.



The softness of the place, the pressing into grass.
The warmth when it arrives as a kind of grace.

The soft bricks, the earth that crumbles. Rain
that gentles and does not precipitate ruin.

Temperate climes. Our fingers on the pulse
of dinner and bed, the night fumbling for pills.



The poor will get poorer, the rich richer. The wind
of fortune bloweth where it listeth. Justice is blind,
a woman with a switchblade. We preserve our kind.
Our forces remain alert and disciplined.

We will creep a little closer to the ground.
After today we will face the everyday grind
with less resolution. Things will be defined.
Life will be returned exactly as found.



But something will have broken. The broken chair
will litter up the hall. The broken machine will
rust in the shed.  Meanwhile jets rise into a sky
where nothing breaks or, when it does, things fall
and break still more. The broken do not fly.
The year begins in pieces on the floor.



Something at the heart of all this. Something
in the soil that is our common soil.
Grass gives way to rain that softens grass,

weather in the heart is an aspect of weather,
cliffs collapse into water leaving steeper cliffs,
houses fall with them, then there are no houses.



George Szirtes’s most recent book of poems, Bad Machine (2013) was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize which he won in 2004 for Reel. George blogs at

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