Birthday boy

J. W. b .3 September 1939, London

All your life you remain the boy
who got war for his birthday.

If the whistling bombs stop whistling
count to three, stop breathing.

Blitzkrieg shatter of glass.
Will the table hold?

Out of your pockets, out of your hair:
dust, and you know it has bones in it.

All your life you roam over rubble.
You can't blow out the flames.


The snow, of course, feels personal.
Far above you, giant malicious fingers
are tearing into shreds the only love letter
ever personally addressed to you

and now the flakes fall higgledy-piggledy
into the garden, their message scrambled
beyond retrieval. You canít even get to grips
with the language: it changes hourly

as pellets give way to wet expostulations,
then slip into a completely dry tongue
whose white words stick to windows
with a teasing sense of symmetry and, you notice,

beauty. So, with your hands at your sides, you watch
as the coherent sky is ripped up, hurled, and melts.

(c) Sue Wootton. All rights reserved.

The bottom half of an image of a flax frond.