MY UNCLE AND THE LAST BOMBING RAID ON CARDIFF

I

this is no rehearsal

away to safety in your mother’s wake

child’s gas mask

malevolent in its dun bag

to the neighbour’s cellar

two doors down

on the sounding of the alarm

coat over pyjamas

as planned     in total darkness

and sullen silence

there to sit out the night

listening     1945

your father out on duty

as an air raid warden

 

this war senseless as the last

too young to join your brother in the fight

a target under the flightpath

to the steel works along the coast

 

someone incants

don’t fear the one you hear

it’s the one you don’t will kill you

 

the silence is unnerving     the world shifts

time stops     the flash

the juddering crash

then darkness     dust     a form of silence

punctuated by screams and the broken

wail of a broken siren

the ringing in your ears

climbing into the cold night

clothes shredded

as you are delivered from the remains

of the house

time resumes

with the sudden realisation

your mother is no longer there

 

the ringing in your ears

a lifelong tinnitus of grief

II

the ringing always there

like cicadas in summer

sound that hurts

you sit in the shade

of a Sydney summer

wheeled there in your hospital issue chair

delivered from the antiseptic smell

of bodies bumping up against their use by dates

 

our conversation avoids the fact

you are dying

concentrates on the mechanics of what passes

for your life these days

the insects     the flies that flower

that sound     reinforces

this is your last experience of this

 

the ringing the ringing is always there like pain

 

your faithful wife

attends to your every need

a sip of water and a wipe

her life has no meaning beyond you

such love on show

embarrasses me

 

then you conspire

to send her home to collect

some vital thing

 

she goes with a kiss

you kiss her back like Judas

as you close your eyes

intent on dying alone

 

shedding a tear for your mother

one last time

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