Coleridge At Nether Stowey, 1993

Coleridge wakes in the morning,
Hartley is fretful, Sara is sulking,
and Lloyd, in the back room,
is having a quiet snooze.

Coleridge has a headache.
At the bottle, at the page,
he is scratching his living like fury.

His head hurts. It is awash
with a dream's detritus,
a harum of harmonies,
the scarper of ink arpeggios.
Pausing only to pat the pig,
he sets his sights
on the mud at Shurton Bars.

Coleridge is a man of stiles.
He leaps the hedges, the fences
like a bark from the mouth of a dog.

The mist is loitering
round the curl of the Somerset coast.
He rubs his eyelids. A grey-blue
convocation of blocks,
a ferrous crop, all oblongs
plinths without statues,
rises from the sea's doorstep.

It is not a stately pleasure dome.
It is Hinkley Point.
It is a Nuclear Power Station.

Coleridge visits the Visitors Centre,
reacting in disbelief
to the introductory video.
His head isn't scribbling; there are
no poems here.

Coleridge heads for home,
battling his way through the butterflies
and ecological interest,
the numerous copses, the nature trails
laid on. They spare nothing.
He stops for a glug of milk
at the Total Quality Creamery.

Coleridge pauses to gaze at estate agents' signs.
They say CHARLES DICKENS.
Means nothing.

The cottage appears in the late afternoon,
hazy, as if someone
has just blown the dust up from Lime Street.
It is kempt, it is called
Coleridge Cottage, and there is an inn
slap opposite.

It is called The Ancient Mariner.
Coleridge thinks, "There's a title
and a half," enters, orders,
has a pint and a ploughman's lunch,
with a lyrical salad.

The dream seems real, intense
as a rinse in a pitcher, or a brook.
Coleridge knocks at his cottage.

In a slow spasm of hilarity,
he looks at the thin white hair
harvested from his corpse.
"Have you a special interest
in Coleridge?" enquires
a guide with fiery eyes.
He seems to be promising Coleridge
something more than a chinwag.

"Oh yes," says Coleridge, "yes,"
thinking, thinking
And he stoppeth one of three.

From the book Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday