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Dusk in the balmy garden and church bells

ring changes from a mellow brick belfry,

clappers half-muffled by tumbling mill-race foam,

pealing the death toll we have heard tonight:

curious calm before the lightning strikes.

 

 

A century ago, lazy summer

solarised racquet-wielding Edwardians

in tolled moments, before magnesium fizzed,

immortalising ghosts on negatives,

preserving transient smiles, like forced rhubarb,

cloched; stiff attitudes in aspic.

 

Mud stained British soldiers at rest

 

Within a month, or so, haunted faces

would grin among stacked sandbags, before shells

shattered poppy fields and the bloom of youth.

This sky is roseate- shepherd’s delight.

Heat radiates from my garden wall and

the old house sighs.  Swifts swoop, prelude to bats.

 

 

I go indoors to watch the latest news.

It shows some ravaged sunflower fields- a toy,

torn pages which a child has coloured in;

pixellated shapes amid fuselage.

Scavengers in balaclavas rifle

through a Pandemonium of small fires,

like unshocked devils, not so sick of sin.

 

Markers, like clouds of bog cotton, white flags,

or stars in a galaxy of hatred,

parody a kind of sky burial.

 

Abandon hope‘, I think, until I note

telegraph poles, like crosses standing firm

amid Man’s carnage, still Somme Calvaries.

 

A century, and yet we have not learned.

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