York in Poetry: It Was the Day After the Blitz

Posted on 25 November 2012 | Poem

It was the day after the blitz:
early morning and a redness hung over the city,
smoke in stillness. No school.
Pickering Terrace no longer there,
and in Baker St. an unexploded bomb.
On both sides of the railway, houses smouldering.
The Germans had followed the silver lines in moonlight.
Everywhere police, troops. Keep out.
That Spring we jogged to the Ings,
shirts tied round our waists.
Pale bodies. Ribs.
Every holiday we came to see what we could see:
skylarks’ nests – in hollows in the ground hidden by grassmeadow
pippits, swallows swerving above your head
and once we saw a fox. We followed it.
And always midges, insects – clouds of them
each alighting on its own kind of grass.
It was a warm Spring and we loved to jungle on the Ings.
Then between the Yorkshire Mist and the rusty sorrel
holes like we’d never seen before – five of them -
and we peered down one of them
and in the slant of sunlight we could make something out
and Storky Jones slipped his long white arm down
and pulled it up with a sucking noise, coated in mud,
and us on all fours staring at it,
like the moment you land a prize fish.
And then Storky Jones fetched up another
and soon we had five
and we ran down to the river and washed them
and there were numbers and letters on them.
We clutched our trophies to our chests.
Storky Jones – white as the warm Spring clouds
clutching a khaki bomb to his chest.
We kept them in a shed.

- Don Walls