Firewatchers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firewatchers in the Blitz, two men look down
on Bloomsbury and St Paul’s. Above their heads
drone Heinkels, in their schwarms. Above those,
darkness, thinning air, the silence of the gods.

I’ll put my father first. Warehouse clerk,
waiting out the aerial assault; in letters –
shocked beyond a word to tell his father,
brothers, what he saw. Then Eliot, poet,
editor, no head for heights, summoning his senses
for the faith of Four Quartets – the cunning, clever
labyrinth that puts injury and death aside,
and suffering; makes learning and allusion key
to meaning no cradling bomb can break.

They both survive – my dad to find a quiet war,
a wife, an only son. A decent life,
obscurity, and love. In sickness and in health.
For richer for poorer. An honest litany.

Eliot was making his – his reputation as modernist
and icon-maker, breaker of machines and idols,
fades. The ironist of Prufrock, the wasted cities,
now bejewells crown and custom of the Church;
as if his revolution had never circled overhead.

Unknowing of the other, both died 2 years apart.
I have a letter in my father’s hand that tears.
Only facsimiles of Eliot’s, and poetry, of course.

Lowick 2018