The evening before the battle they were dancing.
Young women of all kinds appeared
as if carried on the wind from the hills.
Every man had a partner of choice.
The blood that would be shed was rising
in the rage of desire before the dawn.
The women knew what was expected,
discreetly lifting their skirts in the darkness.
The table is arranged for a meeting.
Sunlight throws shadows on the window
of a room prepared for war.
A child might make of them phantoms.
On the wall are maps of a continent
where every country has its colour.
Bold lines mark the boundaries.
Sudden conflicts can occur
when all the world is calm
evidence of the half-hidden,
not visible on the ground,
as on this ordinary afternoon
a cause for war may be sensed
among rumours of innocence.
Voices are silenced by the sound
of crashing glass on frost-hard ground
Rumours of angels float through the mind.
Ideals in cities rise too late to save the world.
When I was a child of five
how did I understand death?
The old lady across the road
They told me she had died.
How did I understand
then what has become for me curious,
the way we vanish from history
into fire and ashes?
Our fears and passions
are soon the Nevermore
of an unlit hearth,
of an unswept entrance hall,
of a heartbeat seen to fail.
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This post was written by Geoffrey Heptonstall