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
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