Abandon hope!, aspic, belfry, bog cotton, Calvaries, church bells, Edwardian tennis, forced rhubarb, magnesium ribbon, MH17, Pandemonium, sandbags, shepherd's delight, sky burial, Somme, sunflower fields
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.
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.