Picnic + Broken Glass – David Allard

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PICNIC

Dead now, but not dismissed,
I linger by the razor-edged fence,
float with the summer spores and pollen
and remember the pungency of
eucalyptus and pine sap and dry sea-spray
blown in from the neat line of trees beneath.

When once a year
you and Ezra and your new man
pray, then picnic amongst the upright stones,
lay eggplant salad and hard-boiled eggs
neatly above my grinning bones,
I grieve for what never was.

Where were you then, when I lay dying?
My hissing pain, my fetid breath
were ghastly heralds of another telegram,
a black-rimmed notice. You kept away.
I forgive you now – I couldn’t then –
believe me, I would have liked to stay away too.

Up the hill you stoop, sweating and sullen,
while young soldiers gossip behind the wire,
and I drift away to spy on their stories.
There is no-one to hear my report:
how every night they dodge their full patrol,
and shiver when owls hoot at moon-backed clouds.

Jeeps clatter past my pebble sealed tomb, and
early stars wink in time with faulty
tailgate lights. The boy soldiers want to think that
dying happens to other people, and I ?
– I trembled down the decades, cotton wool
in my ears, clay dust in my mouth.

A fool then and now, I once left the shelter of this slab
to search for God, sank through the mantle
to the core of seething rock below, then
rose high above the sky into the vacuum and
endless cold.   Nothing; nothing; nothing.
A voice whispered “Go back”.

I returned to this safe dead ground,
to lifeless marble above.

 

BROKEN GLASS

In tailored tweed skirt and starched blouse,
daydreaming of red tides , and dawn light
casting slaughterhouse shadows,
she glides, as she guides
her clean and neat burghers
in fitful Hocht Deutsch
through St.Pauls, past gaping heights,
alongside tombs of fierce warriors,
thinking all the while of bombs, burning rubble,
vanished ancient alleys and wharves.

The burghers,
puzzled at the fifty year old slang,
the archaic Berliner patois,
tell her in cardiganed confidence,
beneath the whispering gallery,
Luftwaffe tales of overseas
pesticidal excursions over distant cities
filled with ants and other insects.

In Westminster, she stabs the sky
with a furled golf umbrella, then
points it at Cromwell’s statue,
hears a serpent hiss: “King killer”.
Behind her, Churchill looms,
leaning on his stick of black stone.

On the motorway,
she confides to the microphone
that the Windsors of Windsor
were once Battenburgs.

A stone is flung from the coach’s slipstream,
A window cracks, frosts over in the summer glare –
She flinches from the broken glass.

David Allard is an English Language teacher from London in the UK, who lived on a kibbutz in Northern Israel for seven years. He writes poems and short stories, and was recently published in Poetica.

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