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This article is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

For Harriet Wanklyn, author of The Eastern Marchlands of Europe Bella & Rosa & an Old Lady Donald Davie

Old Lady:
Voices, such voices … They assail me now;
No, not assail, assuage. Did I ever hear Admiral Horthy,
King Carol? Oh I think not. And not theirs
Voices to oil my wheel-chair. Leave aside
Dear dead Stanley's that is with me always,
The voices that float in and out are most
Unexpected: one just now a station-master's
In I think Debreczen - such
A courteous man, in 1931
Or 1932, it must have been. And then,
Just as surprisingly, a choked-up voice
From a reception in say Nottingham,
Somewhere like that. Now why
Should that voice come? It had no foreign accent
Although the name was Portuguese, I'm sure;
Naturalized for centuries, it could be.
Anglicist in fact, with a solid
Reputation, Stanley said he'd heard.
He asked, with emphasis and urgency
Under the bland convention of those times:
"What are the poets of Poland up to?" Now
How should I know? Poetry was not
My interest nor my business, then or now;
Was happier with my station-master. Still
The urgency, it must be, brings it home
Across this tonic Northern air I can
Profit from for thirty-minute spells.
Now I am drifting off again. So good,
Those times, so good … Tonic. I'm drifting off …


Bella:
Unhappy Daddy, drifting off
In an ...


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