In War (from "After D-Day")
is pleased to present the first five parts of Judith Barrington's
poem After D-Day.
Click for numbers: One,
...unless we can relate it to ourselves personally,
history will always be more or less of an abstraction,
and its content the clash of impersonal forces and ideas.
- Czeslaw Milosz
I am halfway through my time in my mother's womb
when the "Little Blitz" begins to pound the
and nights are filled with sirens and muffled booms.
hit the London Library, Chiswick, and beyond
while rampant phosphorus fires devour the night sky
and crowds in the deepest tube stations huddle, marooned,
someone pulls out a mouth organ, eager to try
for a rousing camp song or a Vera Lynn tearjerker.
Meanwhile, in Chelsea, near where I'll live some day,
are trained to dig through the ruins and stalk
the elusive bombs that fall but fail to explode.
Down in their unstable holes, they try not to choke
dust swirls around and wardens shout out for first aid.
The German bombs that weighed fifty kilos or less
have grown into bloated monsters of almost two thousand;
Sappers have learned how to deal with each bomb's fuse
and how to timber their excavations,
but sometimes their steady hands shake in the chaos:
is killed by a "Satan's" detonation.
Aimed at the 21st Army in Earl's Court and Fulham,
bombs drop on bakeries, parks, churches and stations.
months later the onslaught finds a new rhythm
as "doodlebugs" shatter the nerves of civilians
their silent approach gives no-one a chance of asylum
even the toughest Sapper is ready to drop.
Some of them start spending nights in peculiar places-
in craters, on roofs under stars, or in old chicken coops.
tension is etched on their gray, unshaven faces
as they help the old people search through their rubbled rooms
for photos of babies-now grown into sailors and nurses.
2006 by Judith Barrington