Almost 100 poems on “Teignmouth in Verse” and still a few to come. So what will the New Year bring? I’m taking a brief detour from the theme of ‘people’ for this poem by Don Pearson which presents an apocalyptic view – a reminder of all the troubles in the world today and how it might be if the tables were turned, lest we forget.
Happy New Year everyone!
(For all of us for whom such news has always been from somewhere else)
Reports are coming in from the UK that a large number of insurgents were killed today in an air strike. The strike took place on Teignmouth in a hitherto calm area of England, two hundred miles West of London.
An Allied spokesman dismissed claims that those who died were civilians, saying, “We had indisputable intelligence of a meeting of insurgents and carried out a precisely-targeted strike on their position.”
Elsewhere in Britain, a suicide bomber, thought to be a Scot, killed more than sixty people at a shopping centre on Tyneside.
When the curfew was lifted
We gathered in “Ye Olde Jolly Sailor”,
The Jolly to locals,
Close to the wrecked TAAG Gallery,
Hit by a stray “precisely targeted” bomb.
Maybe more, still under the wreckage of St. Michael’s.
The “insurgents” had only been
A couple of local boys
Who brought in cheap tobacco
In the age-old trade.
Their rivals in the feud
Had expected them to get
A bit of a kicking.
I watched the eyes of those around me.
In the mirror, my own reflection
Showed a face I hardly recognised,
Telling the same story.
This must be stopped.
Earlier, when the fires had subsided
And it had seemed that it might be safe,
I walked down the hill towards the smoke
That obscured the sea and the Ness.
I cut through the lane from Ferndale
Past the brambled hedge
Half-hiding the old mulberry tree,
And entered Paradise Road
With its mature gardens,
The tulip tree, the tamarisks
And the rubble where my friends had lived
And which now muffled their dissent.
On Lower Brimley, I avoided the chalk circles
Around dog-muck on the pavement,
Drawn by a thoughful walker.
As I crossed the railway,
French Street was burning again
After more than three hundred years.
I glimpsed a tank driving
The wrong way along Regent Street
Towards the Triangle.
A group of soldiers huddled
Around a brazier by the station,
Sheltering from the rain and the scything wind,
Wary, frightened even, but determined.
To them, we were just “Brits”.
All of us were a risk.
None of them spoke English
And I did not understand the shouts
But the pointed rifles and gestures told me
To stand some way off in the car park,
Take off my overcoat, turn around,
Then lie spread-eagled in a puddle.
Two of them came over slowly,
One aiming a gun at my head
While the other searched me.
Young Mary Clayton’s body lay nearby
Surrounded by the wreckage of her shopping
That might have been a bomb.
I had felt sorry for these lads
So far from their home,
These peacekeepers in a land
Where war had been a distant memory.
They had expected a welcome,
Had received it in some of the cities,
Back in the early days.
I was turned back
But I could not have gone on.
On the end of Station Road
The ex-servicemen’s club and the hair stylist’s had gone.
Part of one wall remained of
The Masonic Hall
With a blasted doorway,
Above it inscribed, “Audi Vide Tace”,
“Listen, see, be silent”.
The rest of the quotation from Latin,
“if you wish to live in peace”
Had not been written over the threshold
In any language.
I could see the charred ruins
Of people whom I must have known.
Scraps of bloodied fabric
Lay in the road and
A single severed finger
Rolled in the wind,
Its ends pointing
To two places of worship
On opposite sides of the street.
There are reports that three Allied soldiers were killed today by a roadside bomb near Teignmouth in South-West England.
28th August 2008