The first bomb

At the burst of the first sky-bomb
On the city, the god leapt out of me
Screaming with impotence;
Afterwards, dumb and warmly dead,
He stood in the new ruins gazing at a head,
A head, a head, a spring-time head.
I reminded him we had not dined;
Obediently he came back into his cage,
And I dined and wined in a safe place―
In a safe, safe place.
The meal was not a success,
The food too succulently tender,
The wine a million reds too red,
I felt his cold indifference
To else except the door―
The door, the unclosable door
Through which rolled presently a head,
A head, a head, a spring-time head,
And I vomited.

Since then I have been wandering
Looking for him.
He is not in his usual haunts
Of music, wind, sun, grass or
The hilarity of tingling wine
Nor sober words; nowhere is he
Where unbombed gods foregathered,
Where fanged frenzy long had ceased to be
Good company.

For months now
There has been a steady rain of bombs,
And many, many heads,
And I am quite accustomed
To being dead yet full aware;
A strange feeling, a hell of emptiness
Without one's god.
Perhaps he―he may be dead,
But I feel he living waits,
Waits, waits like a god, waits
Deep in the secret sanctuary of the universe,
In a safe place safe
From bombs
And restless spring-time heads

                                         Brian Vrepont (1941)
 

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The Net-Menders

                            by Brian Vrepont

Fishermen, Wynnum
I came upon them by a strip of sea,
In a drizzle of rain mending their fishing-net,
Four swift brown hands, and lean with industry,
Shuttling the thin twine skilfully in-out, repairing the fret Of rock-jag, shark-tooth and thresh;
He, tense as a mackerel, strong and agile,
Sea-eyed and grim as a rock, turned, and his smile
Was as the wonder of sunshine on sea-rock,
His fingers harping the net-mesh;
She on the sea-side, facing the land, took stock
Of me leisurely nearing, through half-shut eyes.
‘Defence,’ I thought; but her mouth relaxed, went sweet
And soft as a sea-flower, her hands' enterprise
On the sea-side of the breaks in the net
Rippling the strings of the two-sided harp o' the sea,
And I thought, ‘Here is where sea-melodies meet,
Mending the breakage of earth-and-sea-fret,’
And the strange great grace of simplicity came on me.

If they had angers in them, these two by the sea,
Not in the two days dwelt with them,
Watching the shuttle flying, the flat corks tied,
And the strong boat pitch-caulked for battle with the sea,
Was flaw apparent in the gem;
Their poverty, too real for pride to hide,
Gave them no envy, not even in the lamp-light
And shadows of our talk,
Not when the net was trailed and netted nought
Save weed, nor when I spoke, that unforgettable night
We fought the tide, and drifted home star-caught,

And I spoke of the hawk
Now in the dark vanished, that all day long
Circled and soared and plunged on innocence; ‘Cruel life!’ I cried;
But my cry crossed over the woman's song,
Over the zither of the boat cutting the brine, and died,
And the man said, ‘It is life,’
And the boat gritted the waiting sane
With sound of a cleansing knife,
And we slept, at life's command.

                                             Brian Vrepont (1941)

Next poem by Brian Vrepont
 

The Pleasant Future of Jones

A captain of politico-industry is observing the city traffic in a reflector gadget on his desk. He shouts into a box.

"Quick, guard, there goes a man
Without a number. Arrest him!"

"'Ere 'e is, boss."

"Speak, thing; where's your number?
Won't tell, eh? … Give him the works―
A quart of castor oil to loose his tongue.
Fetch him back in an hour."

"'E's 'ad it, boss. 'E took it quiet
Like lemonade."

"Gab?"

"Nuh, not a sound. The oil went down
Like inter a funnel."

"Come here, you! … Stick your boot
Into the stubborn bastard! … Good!
Now, where's your number plate? …
Sulking, eh! Pull his jaws apart
And stretch his tongue a bit …
Hell! He's got no tongue. Look, not a vestige."

"Wot'll I do with 'im, boss?"

"No tongue. I wonder how he eats."

"Easy. They pokes it down."

"Of course. Let's see if he can read.
Chalk on the blackboard, 'Where's your number?'
Print it, plain … Ah, he makes no sign.
Perhaps he's blind. Strike a match
Right up against his eyes … No, not blind;
He blinked. Quick, another match!
Singe his nose! …
Ha, not a tremor. No feeling.
Shake hands, guard! At last
We've bred the living robot. But wait,
Is he entire? Quick, test him! … Good,
We'll breed from him."

"Wot about 'is number?"

"Forget it. He's not even a number,
Just a bit of live machinery.
How rapidly the mob responds
Properly controlled and wisely disciplined!
No need to worry now about the masses,
Their congenital blurb of freedom,
Equality, education. leisure,
Comfort and pleasure;
Gleichgestaltet1 … That thing there
Is the answer."

                                           Brian Vrepont (1941)

1Created equal

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