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This poem is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

Three Poems John McAuliffe

Talk about War at the Poetry Workshop

We were looking out for the others from the sunny back doorstep
when, after nearly a week ie all of the writing workshop,
I finally asked the soldier to stop loading up rhymes for flower
and tell me instead about Basra. I wanted the low-down on power.
I got dry facts about daily vacancies in the restyled police:
how to monitor (you can’t) mile-long queues along canals to the palace;
how the secure pay drew doctors, engineers, dentists
and then another type, as I’d surely heard; how first aid kits
or currency would have been more use than her patrol.

And this paid-for course? Her notice. Monday, she was off the pay-roll.
Did I not know who ran the army, and not just in Basra?
Each theatre now, for a woman, was grunt work or purdah.
The others emerged from the woods. She wanted something else. Not this: Poems,
she quoted, don’t pay bills, but, she wanted to know, what does?

Night Manoeuvres
for Stella

Dressed as jedi and druids, they fought like Saxons on the date of the equinox;
the security detail handcuffed ‘Maud, the Edwardian archaeologist’
then forced her into the lotus position. One of the jedis opened a suitcase
and started a songwriting class. We wore sheets and 49p glow-sticks.

Stonehenge, Woodhenge. We danced anti-clockwise till the sun rose
on the fenced-off holes and rifts of the latest excavation.
Wardens, like builders checking gaspipes, wore hats and brighter clothes,
fell over themselves: who will protect the circle of standing stones?

House Fire

Called to the yard
(‘Look, look’, he shouts),
I see the fallen bird
and hold my son’s hand
but what grips instead
are the goggle-eyed flies,
their broad foreheads
like miners’ helmets
lighting up their feelers
on the slippery grey-purple
of the bird’s exposed keel…

I couldn’t take my eyes
off the scene (I see it still)
as rooted in it as,
over the road, the local
look-out boys
who circle, hour after hour,
the burnt house’s remainder,
half-knowing they prefer
breathing its arsonised pall.

This poem is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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