SUNDAY BEFORE WAR

Submitted by AWL on 14 August, 2008 - 5:19 Author: Sean Matgamna

SUNDAY BEFORE WAR
Whitechapel, East London 13-1-'91.

Rattling, clatt'ring, reverberating echoes roar
And bounce along the streets outside the hospital,
Big swirling blades appear upon its high flat brow
Above Whitechapel Road this cold bright Sunday morning
Engines of mercy test their wings for war:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing, warning!
See the maimed, the coffined, blind and mad returning:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!

Below, a sleek content street-trading man
Lays out fresh flowers for the visiting hour.
Soon oil-fields, cities, seas, and babies will be burning:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!

The gilded white-walled mosque is sullen, scorning
Fixed in the skein, weighing loss with gain,
Out-shouted by the chattering blades that fly;
Arcane, well-muffled Bangladeshis hurry by.
And suspect alien brown-skinned men scorning
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!

From the car park market gleaning what they can
Two well-dressed women hurry to the tube
Humping high-back kitchen chairs home to the nest:
Is it the cold, or are others too distressed.?
See the maimed, the coffined, blind and mad returning:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!

Behind mad ripper Jack's wrecked lanes, they sell:
Here, staking out their place in the market Arcadia
Ragged men lay trash for sale down on footpaths
Bare stalls sell rusted tools, old clothes, old nails:
Junk they sell from old folk's lairs, bequest
Of wealth from those despoiled and dispossessed,
Last riches from the life-long near-distressed,
All teapots, vinyl, lamps, big radios, dust-scored,
Lives rendered down, spread out on broken boards.
See the maimed, the coffined, blind and mad returning:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!

Wholly dispossessed, the lost, mad, ruined
Drunkards, shelter by the station—junked freight,
Obsolete! There, neat on a vendor's stall, stacked hate
Filled jingo prints, flash-portraits of a wounded
Bourgeois soul: its parody—its aureole!
And high above the whoring propagandists cold suborning
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing, warning

On Whitechapel Road this frost-bright Sunday morning
Cold, covened drunks look up on spinning blades
And see the high, big, noisy renegade
Engines of mercy test their wings for war:
Late Mercy for their own; mercy after, not before:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!
Soon oilfields, cities, seas and babies will be burning:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!

Soon oil-fields, cities, seas and babies will be burning;
See the maimed, the coffined, blind and mad returning:
Helicopters are on the roof, rehearsing— warning!

Socialist Organiser, 27 January, 1991

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.