The cathedral bells fall orderly down streets
of workshops, shunting yards, high loading bays,
through which the fraying wind now rails at shutters,
shrieks at faces with their locked-in gaze,
bites through tunics and beats
long shuddering retreats
into the huddled waiting. Stood as guards,
we tighten armbands, stamp out distances and stare
across the rails to yards
where, sulphurous in the air,
fresh crowds are driven forward: packed and frightened.
One makes a run. We have him back and see
with what a wild-eyed gesture he will . . . crack
and the snow is black-
splattered for a moment, broadens to a track
of blood that runs and bristles with hostility,
eyes baying at us. Then, with cordon tightened,
we lead them into batches, stand them quietly:
a new world order where they know the weight
of things being different, with no more deals
and rake-offs from the rentiers, the furred elites
who made their money out of our defeats.
We butt them forward as on sleek, oiled wheels
the train clanks in a minute late.


Dawn aches, and in the distance groups of men
flounder at the rock face and the puffing smoke
carries from the crusher with a chortling sound.
Then there come shouts and whistles. Searchlights poke
out their long blades, when
for a second in the fen,
a backlit figure stumbles and goes zigzag
into the softly-felted moccasin
of darkness, now to sag
as shot and shots go in.
Afterwards nothing but the thick-piled snow
sealing us forever in an underground
asphyxiation of the northern lights
in conical shadowy rites
high over watchtowers, wire and rifle sights:
unbroken as the wadded white wall round,
unuttered as the orders that a world ago
looked on innocence and laughter but now confound
us with dockets and quotas. We improvise
once more and turn the figures. The arc-lights flare
to an hallucination of halogen
brightness and infrangible darkness, when again
there falls but snow and mist, and figures there
are silent under wind-shut eyes.


The whole frame judders, and the rotors thwack
and thwack above us as each three-man crew
is ferried out. We pull on over, when
it's the thick, warm sunshine we are lifting through.
High to the light, back
round to the attack
upon the smoke-thick trees. We come in close,
the turrets rattling hard though out of range
at heaps set out with clothes
smouldering, and a strange
acrid smoke that billows up. We roar
on over. The scene diminishes and one
by one we see the bombers hung up there,
spiked into the bare
blue sky with their hard, wing-stretched stare
absorbed in calculations till the odds run
quietly in our favour and the bombs pour
out in long threads: hundreds of them, ton
upon ton on what or whatever. The ground
steadies but there comes a tree-trawling
apocalypse of crimson, a deep red to black
opening of the canopy, but at the back
of minds, and so not part of us, and falling
signally far off, without a sound.


Ours the dominion they have learnt to hate
in the hard lands of exile where the rockets go.
Surviving the searing, and a littering flash,
the senses scattered and a vertigo
emptying to a state
of shocked gasp and dilate
into pain unimaginable, and the head
inflated with nausea, and an emptiness
for the limb's stock instead;
a wet, black stickiness
stiffening into clothes or then dribbling again
from the breathing-in-tatters, blown-off skin.
For this both night and day
we have locked on prey:
our reckoning acknowledged as they lift away
to fall from the infidel as we within
those missiles took fire from the lion's den.
From a nightmare of total and eternal sin
incandescent into darkness where flares combust
high over the watchtowers and the written word:
the holocaust returns should we hesitate
a moment out of weakness and precipitate
a deluge of blood-rush where the world has heard:
conflict is perpetual and is just.


Emptily wind blusters, leaves no trace
on the 'Do not proceed beyond this point'
of tangled posturing in the rusted wires
from a world so different and then out of joint.
Each of us now face
a yet more testing case,
and turn bewildered as the news crowds in
of our legions beneath the unfriendly skies.
Governing to win
out of dust and lies,
called up to help in the hot lands of prayer,
co-opted to sainthood for the simply led.
We shall make sense of it, a line in the sand,
have them understand
whatever the innocence they will be cuffed at hand
hung to a third day while the battered head
sweetens by blood-scent all the cell-block air.
We shall not look now on the thousands dead
but as numbers displaced as the die are cast:
old summers of boyhood are newsprint tales.
God knows that we stand in our own state of grace
before Him and His mercy in this one-time place
we have all around us as the vast earth stales
into what is us at last.

Now in a collection published as a free ebook by Ocaso Press.