NUMBER 44, 1940
Elsie and Rose, giggling with shock,
Entombed beneath fat Victorian legs,
Buttressed with bricks and bric-a-brac,
Wriggle on the lumpy mattress.
Mother, tight-chested with fear,
Fights like a drowning swimmer
Through the debris of the first floor
Now clogging the hall.
‘Girls? Girls?’ she pleads, coughing
In the swirling darkness, the door
To all she holds dear
Piled high with masonry.
Outside, the wail of sirens.
Within, the creak and groan
Of timbers, affronted
By the bomb.
‘Out in a jiffy, stay calm.’
Mother, straining with the wardens
In the flickering torchlight,
For a whisper of life.
Rose, lying like an effigy,
Hands palm to palm upon her chest,
Cries, ‘Ma, one castor’s broken!’
Such bathos in the dust.
The passage cleared,
A suffocating reunion;
Tears channelling cheeks
Floured like marbled saints.
Two streets away
Aunt Bessy sweeps her home
Into the gutter,
Muttering curses at the blood-red sky.