Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CHILDREN, by NORMAN DUBIE



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THE CHILDREN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It was the first wednesday of a scarcity of candles
Last Line: That evening in a coffin.
Variant Title(s): Psalm 23
Subject(s): Animals; Bombs; Family Life; Horses; Sweden; World War Ii; Relatives; Second World War


It was the first Wednesday of a scarcity of candles.
The planes, of course, came in waves. They came
With the dinner bell. Only Eric
Remained upstairs. Inside the orange room
Plaster settled on everyone and in the soup.
Outside snow fell
Heavily around our houses. In the garden
The broken water pipes gushed and froze
Over a horse whose backside was crushed by fallen bricks;
The heated water hissed and as the horse
Took on ice, still propped up with its forelegs,
It stood like a feeding mantis, the awful mouth
Open around its swollen tongue.
We dipped our napkins in the thin soup
And, draping them over our faces, walked
Out into the smoke. The munitions factory
On the hillside blossomed and burned. It was earsplitting,
And sudden. I got sick.
In shame, I went back inside, changing into Father's pajamas.
Uncle shot the horse; it shattered,
A fallen chandelier with all its candles white,
Save one red tier.
Eric remained upstairs, more out of disgust
Than fear.
We had a car, and had hoarded petrol.
In the morning
We would drive to the Swedish Legation.
Mother said that on a burnt-out building,
With chalk, someone wrote: Lily, the Aunt was killed.
I have room now I think
For both you and the children. Where are you?
When there's snow on the ground
The automobiles, lorries, and trains are very plain to see
And the bombers have a field day.
Men pass mornings scattering ashes
Around the factories and in Soldiers' Cemetery
Where the Americans bomb mercilessly. Out in the garden
The homeless cut great steaks from the sides
Of Uncle's dead horse.
Uncle thought this both practical and wholesome.
But when they dragged out its intestines
He shot above their heads and cursed them.
They ran in the direction of the park.
Father wanted to know if there was anything
Eric wanted. He said that to start with
He'd drop a bomb on that horse's carcass
And have it done with...
Father said everyone was nervous
And Eric could go to his room until breakfast.
I saw him once again
That evening in a coffin.





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