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The Battle of the Falkland Islands, by Stuart Airlie.

Not that one, not the one you
Watched on tv. The
Battle. Sturdee...
Admiral Graf Spee;
No, not the ship,
The man. The
Admiral Graf Spee,
Expunged, pumiced , remaining
Only in palimpsest, fainter by the day.
And fainter still the dolorous stroke -
Sir Galahad suffering in a desolate
South Atlantic bay, far from any
Camelot.

The Somme, smoothed,
Slides beneath tarmac
As a new airport for
Paris; the front,
Wrinkled and trenched
With barbed lines, flickers
Indistinctly in
Hallucinatory newsreels
Lacking soundtracks.
Jets outstrip the
Tired five-nines.

Tennyson survives, intoning
"The Charge of the Light Brigade"
On a wax cylinder.
Time hisses him
To incoherence.
Brahms, playing badly,
May be heard jangling
Behind the nightingale,
True object of
Herr Koch's recording, the song
Of the long-dead bird
Tormented into
Crackling shrillness.

Let landscape
Be smoothed into
Modernity.
Polish the wax cylinder,
Rase your tables
And cut
New lines on
What seems a clean sheet.
Or simply delete.

The photograph is
Returning to grey, but
The soldier on the white horse
Is my father's grandfather,
Entering Jerusalem with
Allenby.



Stuart Airlie's poem "Love and Violence in a Grey Place" appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of Offcourse.

 



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