One time this would have been a holiday:
hardly a soul about; few staff, no kids;
an empty playground, drive and car park,
myself, a telephone and piles of paperwork.
This is no holy day, the children are at war,
their papers came and off they went.
Only the men and women left to hold the fort.
(An ageing population, all too old to fight.)
An hour has gone, no sign of movement,
even the sun on hunger strike, black
as a black cloud, in lieu of clouds
precipitating rain - a dirty rain,
to catch the feel of altered memory.
It might be nothing more than memory -
a single, half-forgotten recollection
half-wiped from some computer,
which in the wiping found itself
beyond salvation, buggered, bound for hell,
somehow diverting to the here and now.
Dan, obsessive dresser-up, born
actor-out of childhood's fantasies,
never plays himself. Today
A turban for his head has slipped across
his eyes - seen closer though,
it is a bandage flecked with blood.
Dan and Peggy
(never before so aptly named),
an amputee, are led by Steve,
face hidden by a plastic mask -
the surgical variety, concealing burns
and missing skin.
The end of the procession
and an ancient tractor
wheezing through its tall exhaust
hauls in its wake two trailers
piled high with bodies. (Whether
wounded, dead or dying
is difficult to tell.) Trailed behind
the trailer on a long rope
to his ankle, bumps a half-
familiar figure (fallen from a pile?)
from whom a blood-stained puttee,
gravel-torn, unravels in the rain.
The brain consults its image store
and holds the closest match
up to the boy: a pair of images,
which even as we look, converge,
fuse to a single shot: a Tudor criminal
hung, drawn but not yet quartered,
then gutted for his crime.
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