Chartwell, Kent – with Jay

Unusual heat boiled the tar out of sleepers
As turquoise dragonflies left cross-stiched streams
Over a pond that resembled 1940s Britain
Dirty, murky green
Perhaps a large puddle of displaced Thames
Heaved to Kent by a missile

The Sexagenarians held us up
Looking for lost years in the bushes
In pastel shirts and high waisted pants
They retired on the watered greens
Wiping their chins with their 3wood socks

Waiting, our deftly rolled cigarettes of shag and rice burnt a thin trail of smoke
Wafting through Churchill’s England, his Garden of Eden

Not the smoke of fires and smouldering terraces
That burned the eyes of crying children in hot, packed underground platforms
Tinned, swaddled masses, tripping down stairs and crushing one another

Think of them as victory fires, or traces from a hero’s pyre
Snaking souls of ash bound for some kind of blessed heaven
Where courage and selflessness are rewarded one thousand fold

Underneath the very same sky
If you strained, you could almost hear a rattling battle cry
And we swung our rifles, whipping tiny incendiaries past bunkers into holes
Roused with wit and humour
Buoyed by an unattainable wisdom

Afterwards we’d try and count the books on the shelves
Sealed by the lacquer of time
Thinking on what they fought for
Albion’s rolling hills and deep valleys,
The rose and apple, rhubarb patch and bumblebee
The chestnut and cider, and weeping willow tree

Summer, London 2003

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