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Experiment 10

November '43

November '43

Father's knee was bony;
he held me, told how his footsteps
followed him and fell as if another
walked behind him
to my mother's bed and mine,
in the curfewed city
clenched in war's fist of silence.

Snow fell.
There must have been snow, or much rain.
If it falls there are dull dampeners
on the day and night;
these were owed to the dawn I was born.

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What reality of destruction,
stripped thorn ribs bleeding,
of men and bombed houses,
penetrated my foetal glimmer,
warm crepuscular sleep,
as everywhere innocency
stiffened in death?
And what laws governed my conception
when death much outweighed the bearing?

My father had a chimera companion
over the cobblestones.
Neither altogether guilt,
nor fear, nor the ghosts
of a million dead swelling
unploughed fields of Europe,
but these compounded into
a thudding echo empty
as boots marching into
a present without reason,
a future without possibility;
and a birth giving no compensation
for life, hope, love lost.