Green lung or leaning dinosaur
walled between road and canal

first before Highgate and Nunhead
when bodies pushed out the need,
hatched after Père-Lachaise

classical won over gothic
the porticoes declare
but the northern terrace collonade crumbles

shaggy bushes and sky-bent trees
ruffle any square intent—
ALL SOULS lizard to linnet
quirk whatever shape is fixed

high over water the ground dips
(some cannot be known)

a long view strutted by Goldfinger’s relic
smiling again
and the corbelled Italian stage
of the Hospital tower    
spectral gasometers (do they still serve)
clutch arms over rusty torso
seeking Sunday storage

trains hurtle, hoot over bolts and bars
(witness to loss in the cutting)

barges hug the bank, Maddy Rose, Hero, Virgo
linger in bed all day

no talk but the birds
across space (seventy-seven acres
plus thirty-five of ST MARY’S)
or just a gardener hums

obelisks, columns, caskets, sepulchres,
winged angels, sphinxes, crosses

brick vaults (down a catafalque)
where velvet and brass studs
once kept the boxes bright

it seems everyone is here:
Dickens wanted this rest,
the Duke (Sussex) forsook Windsor—
‘what an escape to such air’, 1843


Ainsworth—spindly urn over fossil block—
entertains a familiar nah fur off

Babbage—gabled ledger in Rubislaw granite—
works his number-engine, use refused

Barbirolli—white scroll—
puts the detail first, lovingly high-strung

Brunel—sturdy marble in a gravel compound—
faces west, the public work says all

Wilkie Collins—under cross and bluebell patch—
eyes the self behind

Cruikshank—bust absent over red granite—
abstains thirty years while steeling terror

Darley—faintly marked ‘poet’ on flat stone—
stutters sums what cries for music

Elliotson—grey obelisk in a vast surround (collapsed)—
goes mesmeric with a stethoscope

Forster—mogul-mammoth in mausoleum—
checks a voice (Podsnap knows)

Lady Franklin—vault 61, Catacomb B—
sends five ships for a stitched ice-hero

Hood—pink pedestal, bust and reliefs stolen—
dreams sudden blows with shroud as shirt

Leigh Hunt—evergreens on a marble block—
chants liberty, any handout allowed

Anna Brownell Jameson—flat slab, credit erased—
tells (as a Murphy can) mysteries of Italy
Charles and Fanny Kemble—weathered ledger—
carry the old inflection into modern time

Augusta Leigh—vault 29, Catacomb B—
dares not breathe a name by day

Maclise—gabled granite—
frescoes the Lords after Snap Apple Night

Macready—vault 96, Catacomb B—
growls like a tiger, musk at the grille

Annabella Milbanke—grey slab beside her lawyer—
defies rank to expose a crime

Mulready—recumbent beneath a canopy—
paints mere life in a penny postage envelope

Feargus O’Connor—octagonal spire with broken tip—
reclaims the open fields and sport in Devil’s Dust

Rattigan—(nameless) cross over trellis work—
keeps the lid on rolling text

Sax Rohmer—black marble as fit—
conjures a chink-master’s Limehouse scheme

Mary Seacole—palm trees and drape over black slab—
lacks four yards of bandage, pillows a gashed head

Princess Sophia—sarcophagus on a tall podium—
dodges her father to get a child

Thackeray—York slab within iron poles—
darkly draws a puppet laugh

Thompson (Francis)—spiky leaves on chest—
charts the long arcane he does not tread 

Trollope—staged granite ledger with cross—
writes to the hour, a pillar box of thought

Varley—headstone lately laid—
draws a spirit out (counterproves the visit)

Madame Vestris—bare by her husband’s ledger—
plays Grace to Dazzle with boxed assurance

Louis Wain—under father’s leaning stone—
maddens the cat’s eye once so near

Waterhouse—words gone under wreath—
wants the gaze that warms in ice

Lady Wilde—private, without a mark—
longs for some rocky coast


Business closer than chiselled rock
intervenes today

on the painter’s grave
at the south-west edge
a damp, sealed envelope beneath a bunch of lilies
marked ‘John William Waterhouse’
contains a poem in Spanish
with signature and abode (Malaga)

They are making a film in the Circle
(one van and crew) furtive as Orton
near the one-legged lion

what is it, what plot number
feels something other
than silence

defiant teeth, bones and hair
outshape a tunnel vapour

SAINSBURY’S on a raft
is just permitted (cabalistic technology)
over miasmatic bubbles

this quadrant of the heart
twitches/bulb pressed into soil
stirs/noun goes verbal

stamp and it is repeated


X. Y. Z.—
Alphabet disperse
to show
the mass squeezed out
(them in pit or mound)

jumbled parts without a name

some less than grand
are cast in tilted book-slabs
and scattered paper roses

know-shall, house-all
scrawls in black earth

Pair a’ dice by way of
stiff won’t fail to find

gavinselerie was born in north-west London, where he still lives. He was formerly a lecturer at Birkbeck College. His books include AZIMUTH (Binnacle Press, 1984), ROXY (West House Books, 1996), DAYS OF ’49 [with Alan Halsey] (West House Books, 1999) and LE FANU’S GHOST (Five Seasons Press, 2006). He has appeared in anthologies such as THE NEW BRITISH POETRY (Paladin, 1988) and OTHER: BRITISH AND IRISH POETRY SINCE 1970 (Wesleyan University Press, 1999).

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