John Greening

Provincials

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for Stuart Henson

So Petrarch lived here? First saw Laura here,

invented the sonnet and began a craze

that turned to ‘tyranny’ (your word). These days

they’re hardly de rigueur, but there’s the fear

that if you can’t balance seven hundred years

on fourteen lines and five rhymes, then the Muse

will leave for Tony Harrison. There she goes.

But you and I have learned by now to steer

a steady course up Petrarch’s mountain track

or — better metaphor — across the Rhône

beside that Pont that keeps on reaching for

a rhyme on its far bank. We know the knack

of picking a wind, too: not one that’s blown

infernos; one that gently tries the door.

Avignon, 2012