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This article is taken from PN Review 228, Volume 42 Number 4, March - April 2016.

Celebrating Christopher Middleton Milne, Clegg, Moss, Hersch, Lowenstein, & Kociejowski
Christopher Middleton

On the Gift of a Sea-Shell
Chrisopher Middleton


They seldom say that God
Inclined his ear
To the cries of old men
From shaky patio chairs
When the Syrian military began
To shell their Aleppo souk.

And God’s ear, they do say, could discern
Helen’s footstep when
Sad at heart she came into sight
And on their bench of stone
As if copying spiny grasshoppers,
Sensing the heat again
The old men stopped their chirping.


Ohne Halt verstandlos Gott ist.

                                       – Hölderlin

That in his young mouth he could taste
Barefoot among the ferns on his patrol
Blackberries picked from the clusters
           Behind thorn stockades, tasted
           On them the savour of salt for soon
           There was the sea, the reef to explore,
And that his tent, nights, caught whispers
From the stream it was pitched beside,
He has given me warmly thanks.


Brooding under the spell of language
Reckoning on bias in our attributions,
We know it was not Homer but Chapman
Who found that grasshoppers were spiny.
Wing-case and shank for a moment in mid-air,
Then touch flitted, ear was prickled,
And the right word was there.


There was no rosy ...

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