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William Oxley: Two Poems
At the Double Locks Pub | The Phraseology of Birds

At the Double Locks Pub

—for Chris and Penny
Perfected by pouring sun the canal
stretched a golden way to distant estuary
and vibrant sea. All was autumnal.

Then "the heart's affections" sucked out
"the truth of imagination"
by The Double Locks pub where duck and coot,

day and air, were languid and musical.
How could hatred ever be possible?
Is not the world always miraculous, as gentle

sun on a green plain in special light,
like then? Secular or not, a simplicity
is everywhere if men would see straight,

hear the speech of wind, grass-mutter,
note artistic flow and form of cloud,
and above a pub's hubbub hear drip of water,

the slow secretion of a love that is sea-vast,
unchangeable as past or future.
A voice pleads, Look, look, be blest!

At this pub by uncompetitive waters
there was, that day, much talk
of terrorism and far-off slaughter

and the contests of peace were not heard
as, perfected by pouring sun, the canal
stretched its shining to the estuary
and even golden became a golden melancholy.

The Phraseology of Birds

Birds sing loudly in the nudging dusk:
thrush and blackbird peppering joy with annoyance,
the rushing sparrow's ragged scutter in leaves
and the isolated cark of city-black crow—
all in this secret deep well of gardens where
tall buildings debar the belting rubble of noise
that pours down main roads like shunted debris.

As the light goes bruising blue in my bit of sky
and plane trees' soot-resistant branches blur
all the wild local sound is turned off as things
creep back into day-warmed hearts for night's duration
leaving me, an Orpheus on his security rounds,
checking words in a world of dissonance and unease
amid the vivid phraseology of birds.

Poet's Biography:
William Oxley was born in Manchester. A poet and philosopher, he has also worked as accountant, part-time gardener, and actor. At present he divides his time between London and South Devon. His poems have been widely published throughout the world in magazines and journals as diverse as Sparrow, The Formalist, The Scotsman, New Statesman, Agenda, Stand, The Independent, The Spectator, and The Observer. He has also read his work on UK and European radio. Among his most recent books of poetry have been Cardboard Troy (Stride, 1993), Collected Longer Poems (Salzburg University Press, 1994), and The Green Crayon Man (Rockingham Press, 1997). In 1981 the Menard Press published his translations of the poetry of L.S.Senghor (Poems of a Black Orpheus), and in 1996 a volume of his plays was published by the University of Salzburg. A former member of the General Council of the Poetry Society and ex-assistant editor of Acumen. In 1995 he edited the anthology Completing The Picture for Stride. The founder of the Long Poem Group, he co-edits its newsletter; and in 1999 his autobiography No Accounting for Paradise (Rockingham Press) appeared.

For the twelve months from June 2001, William Oxley was the Millennium poet-in-residence for his home district of Torbay in Devon. This was part of the national Year of the Artist scheme. This varied and beautiful seaside area of the South-West of England is known as the English Riviera; but despite its natural asthetic features, it had never attracted much poetic focus. Since his well-publicised residency (fully narrated in two free publications called 'The Residency' pts. 1 & 2, and obtainable for an s.a.e. / i.r.c. from 6 The Mount, Furzeham, Brixham, Devon, TQ5 8QY, UK) the area's large population of over 100,000 people has been exposed to everything from poster-poems and poetry readings to an annual poetry festival, for the first time. During this seminal poetic year for the English Riviera, the poet-in-residence's 'Selected Poems, Reclaiming the Lyre,' (Rockingham Press 2001) appeared and he also published a book for children entitled 'Firework Planet' at the start of his residency. A full interview with the poet can be found on The Poetry Kit: His wife Patricia Oxley publishes 'Acumen Literary Journal', one of the major poetry periodicals in the UK, from the same address as 'The Residency', e-mail

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.