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Wednesday 14 March 2012

And Now A Russian Secret Weapon*

I have submitted this to dVerse Poets' Open Link.

With the Cold War at its height,
my Gran became convinced
that the Russians had a secret weapon
primed to use on us and undetectable.
It made you mix your sentences -
or at least transpose their ends.
Russian agents made it
on the bus to Wimbledon
or they cycled round Big Ben.
Released into the atmosphere,
it played The National Anthem -
in a new arrangement
by Rachmaninov -
fifteen times a day.
Her brother said he's seen it used
sometime in World War II -
though everyone had been screwed up
about the German weapons then -
to install some broken windows
in a derelict church hall.

Such tales were rife.
Her neighbours told her many
about weapons by the score,
but this one really got to her
and whispered things in Russian
that she wouldn't tell a soul.

My Granddad called it rubbish,
said she shouldn't say such things,
it was just a load of
firewood that he'd chopped the night before.
 *compare with German secret weapon here


Elephant's Child said...

Sadly your Gran is not alone, although these days it would be the Taliban who had that secret weapon.

Tabor said...

Yes, fear makes us think strange things and your poem gave those thoughts such light hearted whimsy. Something I did not expect, but was delighted by.

Dick said...

A very neat balance here between the absurdity and persistence of paranoia. Funny and disturbing in equal measure.

Wolfsrosebud said...

Fine piece Dave... this brought the reality of her feelings, "and whispered things in Russian
that she wouldn't tell a soul."... then the last line, "it was just a load of firewood that he'd chopped the night before." reflected his feelings... difficult times they lived through

Laurie Kolp said...

It's sad to live in such paranoia.

Anonymous said...

Well done! You keep such a light but sharp edge here. The voices are also very human. K.

Mary said...

Lots of fears during the Cold War, but when you think about it those fears were 'child's play' compared to some of today's fears.

Brian Miller said...

i remember these feelings during the cold war actually...and they were rife among us kids as well...

hedgewitch said...

The German Weapons one was just excellent, Dave, and gave me chills, but both these poems strike the same chord; how our own fears and paranoias from the deepest parts of our psyche find expression in the real world of the village square, whether made light of, truly believed, or secretly haunting us. Excellent pair about the outer and inner wars we're always waging.

Claudia said...

i think when we're afraid, our fear finds the strangest ways to seeking explanations and on the ways we lose touch with reality...very masterfully woven david...now off to read the secret german weapon one...of course have to as i am a german...smiles

kaykuala said...

The Cold War and all its jitters. We were on the brink of war during the Cuban Missile Crisis I remember, but good sense prevailed. You made a whimsical twist with your verse that set a lighter mood.


Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Tension and precision of a vivid memory...

and I agree with kaykuala's comment, there is a great whimsical twist.

Windsmoke. said...

Cold war paranoia and chemical warfare were the real deal especially mustard gas the worst chemical of all. So gran wasn't to far off the mark was she :-).

Kass said...

How many times did we huddle under our desks in Elementary school practicing for enemy attacks?

This brings back such memories.

Cloudia said...

you have soul.

Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

>< } } ( ° >

ds said...

Both poems are powerful comments on paranoia and propagandic (?) exaggeration. Sad that neither has faded since the end of the Cold War... Great stuff, sir. Thank you.

haricot said...

When Tokyo great earthquake occured some rumor were said among people, I hear. It's long ago. Your words give us a hint to remember something.

Dave King said...

The Elephant's Child
Yes, I'm sure that's right. But soon it will be someone else.

Thank you for saying this. I found the mixture difficult to manage, so I am particularly comforted by this comment.

Very gratifying to hear this, as it's exactly what I remember: thinking it wa sabsurd and funny (even) but also sad and worrying.

Very difficult, yes, not that I realised at the time how difficult things were for the adults. That came much later, of course.

Yes, and sadder still when you realise that the tales were not spread by those they feared, but by their own neighbours. Maliciously? Or for fun? Who knows?

Thank you so much for this.

Maybe, but they feared the unknown, the impossible, which in someways is harder to cope with than the more real fears of today, however dreadful. I think of them now as on a par with the fears of medieval times: witches, satan, hell fire etc. The unimaginable.

Yes, I think we half believed them, but they didn't seem to seize our imaginations in the way they did some of the adults.

Thank you you so much for this comment. I do think these things are deep within the psyche and will find an outlet. What form the outlet takes is moulded by the times in which we live. I remember aMethodist Minister saying to me once that ultimately man cannot do without religion because irrational fears cannot be overcome by reason.

Ah, one of those fiendishly clever Germans... yes, of course. Well I think you are exonerated in the case of this particular secret weapon! Thank you for the comment.

I missed the missile crisis. I was out of contact with the known world. On Dartmoor with a party of school children.

Dave King said...

Much appreciate the comment. Thank you for it.

No, there was always just enough basis for the tales to do their damnedest.

Ah, yes. I remember that!

Why, thanks!

I suppose paranoia will always be with us and must find something to focus upon.

Yes, it's true, I am sure. The phenomenon is universal.

Kat Mortensen said...

I had to go and read the German one (and left a comment there). This is certainly so imaginative (they both are). The last stanza really caps it for me; it's brilliant! A real coup!