THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2000

 

Robin Ford
THIS IS THE LIFE

 

Up at the big house - the one
with panoramic views, security lights,
lions on pillars - a party is underway.
The new lot no-one knows are holding
court. We the great uninvited must fill
the necessary, vital role of gawpers.

There are marquees on the lawns
and what we take to be glamour
performs its measures for each other
and for bats and moths. At borders
of the shrubbery is all the flummery
you hear about. Lakes of gin and
Pimms will later lead to wines and
punches but no-one seems especially merry.

Despite the warm and cloudless night
there's deep snow in the bathroom
and wafts of dope compete with mossy
rose and eglantine. The moon itself
must surely be by Harvey Nicholls.

    This is the life.

Odd then to think how things turn round -
two hundred years ago the lane, now road,
the house stands on was used for smuggling
brandy and tobacco. No romantic stuff,
no derring-do but fact of life to fill
the children's mouths with bread. All tied
up with contracts, treaties with the gentry.

Then look at old maps, note that land
lay quarter mile to seaward then and (as
books of engravings show) great houses
stood which should they haunt their old
foundations would float like Goya's visions.
Erosion is a fact of life round here and in
a geologic blink the grand new house
its swimming pool and rather shiny
fountains could slip to sea as sure
as revellers will come to bone and ash.

 
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