||[May. 9th, 2007|10:10 am]
I wrote this on a train about ten years ago at a time when I was being bombarded with verse and getting it down was almost like taking dictation.
I used to have a big thing about the poet Sidney Keyes- who was killed in North Africa in 1943. Was he murdered while a prisoner of the Germans? I've always thought so, but I can't prove it and the latest research suggests he may actually have fallen in action. Never mind. This poem never pretended to be biography.
Anyway, it's been nagging at me these past few days going, "post me, post me, post me!" So I shall.
The bells sound over Oxford in the small hours.
Comforting or sad? A bit of both.
Some things, the bells say, tend to last a long time-
Stonework and bronze, for instance, but not love-
Winged words of love but not the thing itself-
Not as a rule. The lovers are awake
But feigning sleep. She thinks how cold he is.
He thinks how very far away she'll seem
When he's at war. There'll be a German sergeant
Who'll offer cigarettes then shoot him dead
Because it’s such a bother to keep prisoners
. And she, by then, will be with someone else.
During the next six months until this happens
She in London, he in Africa,
Will sometimes think how, lying back to back,
They heard the bells and knew they'd been defeated.