Zeppelin Attack, Braintree, 1916

Doris and her sister Maggie

shook awake by mum one night

as starlight shows a large dark shape

in deathly, whirring flight.

 

The oilcloth of the bedroom floor

is icy underneath their feet,

they struggle with the steamed-up sash

and peer out on the street.

 

As overhead a Kapitan

unsure above this foreign land

turns the zeppelin’s engines off

to better understand

 

exactly where his airship is

and as he does St Michael’s bell

tolls and tells this Kapitan

what Doris knows too well.

 

He’s cleared the patchwork Essex fields,

dirt farmyards and the gladed copse,

he’s reached the jostled terraces

and little shuttered shops,

 

the churches and the railway line

where sloes and dark, fat blackberries grow,

where thatched roof pubs and gothic schools

are all the young girls know.

 

He’s likely near enough to Crittall’s

where in peace time men annealed

those futuristic window frames

in toughened Essex steel;

 

where now their women heat and cool

the liquid fire for darker ends,

the grim, efficient work of war.

He gives the order, sends

 

a thousand screaming kilos down

upon the brisk Spring Essex night

a silent rip through country air

and then the sky turns white.

 

Memory’s a funny thing

and later, when she wrote it down

Doris was unable to

recall the burning town.

 

The oilcloth and the sash stayed with her

and the news the morning after

a tiny girl was crushed and killed

by chimney brick and rafter.

 

But mostly Doris thought about

her kind old dad away at war

the picture of him coming home

was what she chose to store.

 

So handsome in his postman’s blue

much better than the army green

he never smacked or chided them

or told them what he’d seen.

 

L U K E   W R I G H T

@lukewrightpoet || lukewright.co.uk

 

Listen to Luke reading his poem:

One thought on “Zeppelin Attack, Braintree, 1916

  1. Pingback: Luke Wright’s 2nd Poem | Last Poppy Project

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