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Thursday, 5 May 2011

The War's First Casualty

Plums!
Victorias!
My plums, my own Victorias:
soft, velvet bombs of taste -
and I the bomb disposal officer,
am high among the branches
choosing which to take.

Thoughts of disposal, though,
ring changes to the game:
a plum can be a depth charge when
you chew along its length,
exposing in your wake of amber pulp,
grainy, firm and juice-filled;
then gently squeeze and see
the sharp stone surface like a stricken submarine.

My tree (because they planted it
the day that I was born)!
But someone's hands are holding me -
too tightly - round the waist.
Whose hands? First guess:
they're granddad's... but another

memory keeps getting in the way:
my relatives, granddad among them,
sitting in the shade, in deck chairs, by the house,
their sherries and their beers and my half-eaten
birthday cake beside them on the ground,
when from the air a distant drone,
and looking up, two fighter planes,
soon joined by others,
almost silent now, quite high
and out beyond the chimney tops,
behind the relatives, and twisting,
turning like the hungry fish
that jink and tumble, challenging for food
in next door's pond. One diving from the sun
is like the sly one striking from its hide out in the reeds.

A mutter from the one whose hands are holding me:
"Damned Huns!"
And so I holler at the slumberers: "Achtung!
Come on, get down the Anderson, the Huns have come!"
And hear my mother say: "You'll have to stop him John,
we'll be in trouble if the local Bobby hears!"

I see dad rise and start towards us, then stop dead.
The voice of him behind me - granddad once again -
has yelled at them: "Don't take all day! They're overhead!"

The shelter has a corrugated lip to be stepped over.
My mother slips in hurrying;
the lip scrapes down her leg, removing half the skin.
I think she is the war's first casualty -
and that the bone might surface like a stricken submarine.



This is a new version of a poem that I originally posted as A Family Occasion approximately three years ago. In fact, it has become something of an obsession. There have been a couple of other versions also. But now it is nearing what I had originally intended.

8 comments:

Windsmoke. said...

Scary and nervous times indeed :-).

The Weaver of Grass said...

Graphic imagery Dave - and the plum bit at the beginning made my mouth water - literally - so it must be good!

Lucas said...

Spot On! Excellent collage of images that make the point brilliantly.

lucychili said...

vivid contrasts

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Brilliant write - excellent juxtaposition.

Anna :o]

Jinksy said...

Oh, for a Victoria plum! I haven't seen a real on for years...
Nor any bombs, I'm glad to say...

David Cranmer said...

I just happen to be working on a story featuring a WWI bomb disposal specialist.

Dave King said...

Windsmoke
Absolutely!

The Weaver of Grass
Mmmm, they don't seem to be as good these days. Not as I remember them... where have I heard words like that before? ("in my day...") Must be old age talking.

Lucas
Hi, God to have you with us, and thanks for commenting. Much appeciated.

lucychill
Thanks for that.

HyperCRYPTICal
Thanks again for your response.

Jinksy
Nor I - on both counts. Bad news and good!

David
Great minds - or the web's synchronicity?