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A context for negativity

Don Pearson
Don Pearson
28 Aug 2008 15:57

(For all of us for whom such news has always been from somewhere else)

Reports are coming in from the UK that a large number of insurgents were killed today in an air strike . The strike took place on Teignmouth in a hitherto calm area of England two hundred miles West of London.
An Allied spokesman dismissed claims that those who died were civilians, saying, “We had indisputable intelligence of a meeting of insurgents and carried out a precisely targeted strike on their position.”
Elsewhere in Britain, a suicide bomber, thought to be a Scot, killed more than sixty people at a shopping centre on Tyneside.

When the curfew was lifted
We gathered in “Ye Olde Jolly Sailor”,
the Jolly to locals.

Maybe more, still in St. Michael’s.
The “insurgents” had only been boys
Who brought in cheap tobacco
In the age-old local trade.
Their rivals in the feud, equally old,
Had expected them to get
A bit of a kicking.

I watched the eyes of those around me.
In the mirror, my own reflection
Showed a face I hardly recognised,
Telling the same story.
This must be stopped.

Earlier, when the fires had subsided
And it had seemed that it might be safe,
I walked down the hill towards the smoke
That obscured the sea and the Ness.
I cut through the lane from Ferndale
Past the brambled hedge
Half-hiding the old mulberry tree,
And entered Paradise Road
With its mature gardens,
The tulip tree, the tamarisks
And the rubble where my friends had lived
And which now muffled their dissent.
On Lower Brimley, I avoided the chalk circles
Around dog-muck on the pavement,
Drawn by a thoughful walker.

As I crossed the railway
I could see that French Street
Was burning again after more than
Two hundred years.
I glimpsed a tank driving
The wrong way along Regent Street
Towards the Triangle.

A group of soldiers huddled
Around a brazier by the station,
Sheltering from the rain and the scything wind,
Wary, frightened even, but determined.
To them, we were just “Brits”.
All of us were a risk.
None of them spoke English
And I did not understand the shouts
But the pointed rifles told me
To stand some way off in the car park,
Take off my overcoat, turn around,
Then lie spread-eagled in a puddle.
Two of them came over slowly,
One aiming a gun at my head
While the other searched me.
I could see young Mary Clayton’s body
Surrounded by the wreckage of her shopping
That might have been a bomb.
I had felt sorry for these lads
So far from their home,
These peacekeepers in a land
Where war had been a distant memory.
They had expected a welcome,
Had received it in some of the cities,
Back in the early days.
I was turned back
But I could not have gone on.

On the end of Station Road
The ex-servicemen’s club and the hair stylist’s had gone.
Part of one wall remained of
The Masonic Hall
With a blasted doorway,
Above it inscribed, “Audi Vide Tace”,
“Listen, see, be silent”.
The rest of the quotation from Latin,
“if you wish to live in peace”
Had not been written over the threshold
In any language.
I could see the charred ruins
Of people whom I must have known.
Scraps of bloodied fabric
Lay in the road and
A single severed finger
Rolled in the wind,
Its ends pointing
To two places of worship
On opposite sides of the street.

Three Allied soldiers were killed today by a roadside bomb near Teignmouth in South-West England.

28th August 2008

28 Aug 2008 16:25

How big is your drinks cabinet Don?

Don Pearson
Don Pearson
28 Aug 2008 23:06

Fortunate as I feel to live in this area and at this time, I do not have a cabinet as I do not drink.
Were things otherwise, it might be very big and yet never have enough in it.

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