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Dawn still over doorways creeps
In cockerel crows and baby cries
And fires stoked with soot and ash
Are flung out to scar the sunrise.

Children wake and laugh, and scattered run
To go to school in ceaseless chatter droves
To learn of life in smaller terms
But they today will learn the world.

As shepherds turn in fields to sleepy stretch
They see a pyre of smoke curl straight and long
And marvel as the folded valleys seep
Their blackened night to catch red-dawn.

Carded in discarded scraps of black
A silhouette against the hilltop sky
A city like the quiet thunder spent
Like cut outs from a children’s nursery rhyme.

Might and rubbled power lies in fires
Men kept too warm in palaces and huts
Both crumble just alike with angry morning
Both make a likeness of an ashen dust.

Mothers cling to sons like cradles, rocking
Crooning lost and haunted lullabies
They all go grey by shades and start and sputter
And helpless in the night go glassy eyed.

Daughters hold the hands of toddlers smashed
All ringlets, starry eyes and playground faced
Trodden down so small and cold and muddy
No washing hands before the dinner place.

Sons hold what is left of mothers
Faces charred and scarred will long remain
Remembered as their empty last goodbyes
And blood is washed away by filthy rain.

A man of age and aching was so blind
That light and dark no longer changed his face,
His hearing went and then he couldn’t walk
But crawled to feel the corpses just in case

His son was one of many in the number
Of graveless wandering souls of muslin shirts
That littered gutters early in the morning
While a kingdom fell to ashes in the dirt.


Vicki Northern is more commonly known as Ermintrude or Paradox, due to a daisy chewing habit and having odd friends. Her favourite things include watermelon pip spitting contests, quoting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and playing unaccompanied Bach. She doesn’t like riding rickshaws down the wrong side of a dual carriageway, aeroplane curries, or the beeping sound microwaves make when they have finished cooking. She spent her childhood in East Africa learning to avoid rabid dogs, cycling through national game parks and wearing flip-flops. She reads anything she can get her hands on, mostly due to the fact that she has never had a television. She writes poetry and fiction. Now she lives in Guernsey and wants to be Postman Pat when she grows up.

© 2005, Vicki Northern

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