Poems to share

War Poetry

from Samarkand (Picador)
Forward Prizes for Poetry Best Collection shortlist 1999

The class has dropped its books. The janitor’s
disturbed some wasps, broomed the nest
straight off the roof. It lies outside, exotic
as a fallen planet, a burst city of the poor;
its newsprint halls, its ashen, tiny rooms
all open to the air. The insects’ buzz
is low-key as a smart machine. They group,
regroup, in stacks and coils, advance
and cross like pulsing points on radar screens.

And though the boys have shaven heads
and football strips, and would, they swear,
enlist at once, given half a chance,
march down Owen’s darkening lanes
to join the lads and stuff the Boche –
they don’t rush out to pike the nest,
or lap the yard with grapeshot faces.
They watch the wasps through glass,
silently, abashed, the way we all watch war.

© Kate Clanchy

Kate Clanchy