Serviceman's Complaint

by Kendrick Smithyman

Kendrick Smithyman
Kendrick Smithyman

Cockcrow's chalky virtue, a swan
scales up and over willows,
thrashing her misty pool. No one hollos
her decamping, sluggish as though only bone
took wing, heaving towards vague
estuary, disturbing mist, then gone.
People were coming off shift elsewhere
when I saw her panicky there.
They huddled in streets by factories,
hearing, half-hearing (reveries
or open threats) mounting aircraft
through cloudbase oh bore left
from ways wherever pleasure was,
obstinately made deaf their ears
and eyes narrowed. What small pieties
commend them, protest them well, my dear?
My war was inching in, too near.
On either hand might shake
disgust's niggling touch or clear
instruction to run wrong, to take
a nasty gun and studied aim:
at someone's word my most concern
could be to calculate to maim
a creature such as that flown bird.
My stupid wishings dream and teem
because displaced from you, my swan,
removed to march, to scowl, to pry.
I think one lakeside, think to moan
that what is done, is done, is gone
(those feathers dulled which used to gleam).
Bombers, not fine fowl, cross the sky.
What shepherds merit home again?

Last updated January 14, 2019