Monday, November 28, 2011

Bunker Mentality

It came to me in the queue,
Outside the school canteen,
The day the skies turned black
And we knew the Russians would attack.

That afternoon,
During Double Maths,
I made my plans,
Complete with detailed diagrams
And comprehensive lists.

Next morning,
I watched my mother disappear
Round the corner onto Richmond Road
Then started my work.

Supplies from the kitchen/diner -
Into sturdy cardboard box went:
1 bottle Tizer,
½ a loaf of white, sliced bread,
1 tub Stork Margarine,
1 tin Nestles Condensed Milk,
1 tin Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup,
1 can Heinz Baked Beans,
½ a chocolate Swiss Roll,
1 can opener,
1 set cutlery,
1 plate,
1 ½ pint glass.

Two armchairs face to face
At the end of the bed.
Supplies box slides under one.
Library box ( stock of Wizards,
Captain W.E Johns, New Testament,
Revised Standard Version ) under other.
Bed stripped. Mattress arched between
Layer two -
Eiderdown spread over the top,
Layer three -
Candlewick bedspread,
Gaps sealed with pillows,
Wireless and torches placed inside,
Lastly the big tin box
After which I crawl,
Sealing up the entrance behind.

Wireless on in time
To catch the latest bulletin,
No news.

Time to review forces.
Out of the tin emerge,
1 Centurion tank,
1 armoured car,
1 ten ton truck,
1 captured Tiger,
2 twenty-five pounder field guns,
Followed by the troops,
In precise rows,
Followed by motley POWS,
After all, no could blame the Germans
For this one.
Stand easy men - no new developments.

Time for paperwork.
I wonder what the Great Wilson
Would make of my cosy cave?
Would he be ready for a doze
So soon? Better set all the alarms.
Before I snuggle down.

Westclox danced around
To sound the all clear.
All present and correct.
All still here.

Back to work,
Timed out at 31 minutes,
After which everything
Is in it’s place,
Well before my Mother’s
‘Have you had a nice day dear?’

V. Good. No chance of being spotted from the air.
What chance have the Russians got of finding this
When my own Mother doesn’t know it was there?
And in retrospect, ecologically speaking,
Well ahead of my time, for even after
The first strike, you could return in thirty years
And find no urine drenched cellars, no
Flaking graffiti covered walls, no
Twisted, tangled rusting metal.
No, not a single trace of my defences
Could have been found anywhere!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Transit camps dispersed, overland to Basra,
over seas, watching for tell tale periscopes,

to Karachi. Hints of permanence, schools
needing teachers, an offer of employment

in the French Embassy. Reined in tight,
too young, too soon. On the move again,

East Africa. First sight of Fort Jesus’s lowering
face. The first link breaks, reaching the age

of majority. Instant reaction, sign on the dotted
line, no longer the child, fresh faced recruit

of the Polish Air Force, one of the girls,
there in the hangar of hanging silk,

folding, packing, stacking, preparing
for you, who floated to earth near

Pegasus Bridge, or you who drifted too far
at Arnhem, shattering continental chains.

This takes my Mother from Tehran to East Africa via Karachi and links to continuing events in Europe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Scientific Breakthrough!

I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
The gun reverses the laws of Physics!

Away from the demanding lemon tree,
Away from the grasping olive grove,
Away from the children splashing in the dust,
Water flows uphill here,
Up to the sniper’s concrete garden,
For he has magic, itchy fingers,
For he must be obeyed,
For it is written in his book,
For his eyes are blue with stars.
Wherever his gaze lingers,
He shall spy those who have strayed,
Shrivel with a single look.
Look around you. See the scars.

Short of water for your fruit and veg?
Not enough for your jacuzzi?
Forget new schemes for irrigation!
Buy yourself an brand new Uzi!

A break in my Mother's epic journey. Not only do Zionist settlers divert water away from Palestinian communities, but they have made a sport of firing at people trying to access what little water is left.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


Too bright! Too bright!
Whole world screamed white,
Disconnected words swim round her head,
Scratched the bites until they bled.
This is what the angels said,
Gathered round her floating bed,
Thrashing, burning,
Can’t be still, keep turning,
Though every move means pain,
Racked with coughs, again, again.
Feel it come, sweet oblivion.
Learn to love delirium.

Six months for the world to still,
Half a year with time to kill,
Find new strength, regain the will,
Place fresh blooms upon your window sill.

‘Gone with the Wind’, a GI picture show,
How was she supposed to know
It took four hours to reach the end
And now in company with new found friends,
Clinging to the hurtling jeep,
Brought safely to the gate
Where mothers furious vigil keep
Too late to scold. It’s far too late.
The daughters they once knew have fled,
Young women marching home instead.

The photo shows mother and daughters in Tehran. This was after my mother’s recovery from typhus. Note her short hair only just grown back after she had lost it all in the course of the illness.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


The Tehran Conference,
Lend Lease,
Three men looking very pleased
With themselves, comfortably
Overweight, preening
For the cameras,
The Bulldog, The Bear , The Cat
Who filched the cream.
Three strokes of the pen.
The dismemberment of a continent
Begins, production lines speed up,
Convoys head north,
Corridors open up
To the south.

The camp gates are open.

Time to barter,
A good coat for the officer’s wife,
A precious tin of milk
For her baby daughter
Buy a travel warrant south
Towards the Caspian’s gleaming water.

Hour after hour, the trains roll,
Sweltering by day,
Shivering by night.
The journey takes its toll,
High fever, muscles that waste away.

Queuing on the quayside,
Barely able to stand,
Knowing the ship sails
On the next high tide
And only those who can climb
The steep gangplank
Will sail, this or any other time.

Step by step,
Limbs, head screaming,
She dragged herself,
Towards the blue sky,
Found herself on deck,
Stared around delirious, or dreaming.