Carpamus dulcia: nostrum est
Quod vivis: cinis, et manes, et fabula fies.
Persius: Sat. V
Noticing oddly how flags had been rubbed thin,
Bleaching in shut drawers, now unrolled
In blues, reds, their creases of old skin
Tacked on brown lances, headed with soft gold.
Clotheslines of bunting,
And light fresh at the front door, May
Switching the sky with stray bits of green,
The road levelling off; the day much like a day
Others could be, and others might have been.
A woman laughing,
Sewing threadbare cotton to windy air,
The house open: hands, curtains leaning out
To the same gravel, the same anywhere, everywhere.
Birds remain birds, cats cats, messing about
In the back garden.
And a table-land of toys to be put away,
To wither and shrivel back to Homeric names.
Scraps gathering myth and rust, the special day
Moving to its special close: columnar flames
Down to a village bonfire
In which things seasoned and unseasoned burn
Through their black storeys, and the mild night
Fuels the same fires with the same unconcern:
Dresden, Ilium, London: the witch-light
Bright on a ring of children.
Night, and the huge bombers lying cold to touch,
The bomb-bays empty under the perspex skull.
The pyres chill, that ate so fiercely, and so much,
The flags out heavily: the stripes charcoal, dull.
Ashes, ghosts, fables.
from The Air Show (OUP, 1988) , copyright © Peter Scupham 1988, used by permission of the author