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:
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.
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