Man Ship Tank Gun Plane

by Nancy Cunard

Nancy Cunard

GUNS far away--then last, closest. And ring-wise or splayed out? Like London
Arc, 50 by 30. At night. How uncharted the problem of sound,
Though the middle-ear’s filter salutes, comes up at the double to solve it,
Hurt most by a break in the scurry, by the pause that resembles a wound.

No thing is confused; all’s in order. Time noted. Last lares penates
Pressed finally after long years in small bag on the couch wait the hand,
Ready for “smartly”...”fare onward”. So, pacing, sireenly...(O sister,
You turned one, telling the Yanks “‘alf a blitz ‘alf a mo’” on the Strand)...
Come mine, mine-mine...mine, between 10 and 10.1, the all-closest (guns I mean)
And the heart of it nears, yes? It does. It breaks up and the pattern is lost,
Lost, no, but scattered, forked-out now; ah look, the sound cedes it to vision -
Have we storm? We have storm...peak, maybe--(keep it patterned whatever the cost),

Storm-at-sea...Round this Horn yet...All’s relative...Mount, climax, then
Peak--only fools wave-count--it’s peak counts, thrust up through this giant tattoo...
Percentage of average...8 million...but for soldiers in battle, this, always,
Who say: “If your name’s not on it why then it is never for you.”

Rage rave in your high loft majestic--for look, now the wild horses have it
Burst loose in the dizzy skies in their crazy mad gallopade,
Rearing-careering--like planes, yes...can hear them--and roaring-careening,
Part-sound, part-vision, part-sensed--planes sniped in an air enfilade.

So! Down-come of satellite steels, cascade of the shrapnel olives,
Casual flora of lead bloomed on street, iron spawn from the sky’s black breast,
Then up-gush of incandescence, and crystalline chandelier
Christmassing down from 12,000 (the purpose amidst the feast).

I told you: sound yields it to vision--Then the guns, flares, glass, crash, tracers
Condense of a sudden on “There?” Do the flames sit in west or east?
More like in the south--no, Soho--somewhere back of the plays and Eros,
(Superb is the fireman’s skill)...And what now? The whole night’s at rest.

I know - you hate these things written--wanting bluebell a-quiver in heather,
The secular flight of lone heron in lieu of massed iron wing,
Seeking olive at peace in grey stone-land, and glint on wild fur and feather
From sunrise and sunset, and ruins where only the long-dead sing.

Bat into seagull, welcome! Delft on its old shelf safely,
With only for trepidations those of the sewing-machine;
Turn fresco of flames into tide-piece, match gull’s wing with stone-white on
Some time hence scarred turf will renew battle-slough revert to March green.

Some time hence they will come, I suppose, mood and time to weigh and consider
What metre best fits what matter...If the Love-Courts were just in their day...
Man will study old specious disputes, things like “the sex of angels”...
Some, turn to the pink in a flint, and the artisan’s osier way.

^ ^ ^

But NOW, no. None of such. All’s at war. In front of me sea, and it’s FRANCE;
And beyond that, the past, and it’s SPAIN. Death hurls down a comrade’s lyre:
Mid-March it is Alun Lewis, death precedes him with Nordahl Grieg;
The whole face of one dream is SMOKE, and the voice in the next shouts FIRE

Loud, loud, in the ear. Long, terrible, gaunt the enforcement of waiting--
Does the wind from above blow chill, is there sign to vouchsafe us a date?
Here day after week and month after year, and in vassalled countries,
Man burns: “It is I, one being, but I in my millions, I wait,

And...nought?” Nought, nought, and nought, nothing - impeccable Nothing,
Round as the total circle with zero at full in the midst,
Hinged to invisible vacuum, suspended in seasonless ether,
Greater than unlaned ocean, static, nor “last” nor “first”

In its nature, like Time. Like Time? Ah! but Time is live too, is imperfect,
Subject to change, has springs, and when they are darkly pressed
UP, peoples! haste history; come, dictators and traitors, to trial--
Convulsed are the panoramas, and see, when they fall to rest

Cuts through the dust-cloud THE TRUTH, as spare and white as pure bone is.
All must march in appointed order: Man flies across the West,
Man triumphs on in the East; when the South is dynamited
The North skirls down convergent--so must it come at last.

Dèpart à zéro. Our say. The fifth spring. The initial and ultimate
Surge, that the feet have learned and the years stored up - till it come
With its roar and tornado, its science, its vigour, its fury, its lava,
At last, like a mistral-boreal--CHARGE--sure as the African drum.

THEN, YES - to the arts of peace, to their modes and themes and values,
When the armies have battled through, and the dragons’ teeth have sprung
Sown wide by the conscript millions exiled in teuton death-land,
And the worker clasps the soldier, and the Marseillaise has swung

Freedom into fulfillment. Then yes, to a measure of heart’s ease,
In a room at The Rising Sun, with a drink to all races’ increase--
The landscape no longer khakied, the man on the rick with the hayfork,
And the tank led out with the horse to furrow - Piers Plowman at peace.

East Chaldon - Dorchester, March, 1944

Last updated February 19, 2023