Between the campus and a green twostorey house

where the room was always tidy, the bed made, the books in confraternity on the shelves.

She did not throw stones, major in philosophy or set fire to buildings, though acquaintances say she hated war; had heard of Cambodia.

In truth she wore a modicum of make-up, a brassiere, And could, no doubt, more easily have married a guardsman Than cursed or put a flower in his rifle barrel.

While the armouries burned she studied, Bent low over notes, speech therapy books, pages Open at sections on impairment, physiology.

And while they milled and shouted on the commons she helped a boy named Billy with his lisp, saying Hiss, Billy, like a snake. That's it, SSSSSSSS,

Tongue well up and back behind your teeth. Now buzz, Billy, like a bee. Feel the air vibrating in my windpipe as I breathe?

As she walked in sunlight through the parking lot at noon, feeling the world a passing lovely place, a young guardsman, who had his sights on her,

Was going down on one knee as if he might propose. His declaration, unmistakable, articulate, flowered within her; passed through her neck,

Severed her trachea, taking her breath away. Now who will burn the midnight oil for Billy, ensure the perilous freedom of his speech?

And who will see her skating at the Moon Glo Roller Rink, the eight small wooden wheels making their countless revolutions on the floor?

(Geddes 1996:27)

Although this poems setting is Ohio, USA; Baghdad, Bejing, London—nowhere is protected in the present state of the world. But the poem's ability to deliver this message is effective because it shows us 'a green two-storey house...speech therapy books' because it records a voice saying, 'SSSSSSSS... Feel the air/vibrating in my windpipe as I breathe'. The details are there in close-up realisation. The poem builds a world, her world, and allows us to inhabit it with her. As we read, we are there, able to listen and hear, to see. The subject of this poem could and probably did originate as a report in a newspaper or on television, yet events recorded in the media generally reveal very little that could help us experience them with such intimacy and exactness.

The subject of the next extract has no obvious link with news or the media, although some images may be familiar through films. From the start of the poem I am aiming simply to build up a scene, recreate its impact. Here, a family is making their first visit to San Francisco:

from 'The Bridge'

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