THE FIRST AIR-RAID SIREN

I. Before that,
That echo,
That intensity creeping
Like circling shadows into each unlit crevice,
Those that were left,
Before that--
Men slept light and un-dreaming against
Down-layered promises,
Before that,
Night-men became so, slept--
And women tended house while the world
Slept countered by that edge-darkness,
Men slept against those first
Whispering
Pleas, and
Children bemoaned another autumn.
Before that
The farmer called to dogs and herded their flocks
Who ate around the darkness, stamped on rocks
And broke out those
Smoke-rememberings.
The farmers worked the day and
Calculated earnings at night while
Furtively glancing at some tin hat,
Which he had thought to burn;
Before that
A king attended fundraisers for the poor
Only, opened Parliament with
Economy, not the
Other aspect of Empire...
Before that
The city awoke at night and people walked
Uncovered, took advantage of the sky in its depth,
Before that
Old men thought it best to remember and
Retell, it was Blind and it was Clear,
Before that
To the Old Men, who saw soldier-lads troop
Off home and where there is a division--
There are future divisions.
The rough Old Men who did not sleep,
Who watched the poor that everyone assumed to be locked,
And no lights shone through, but there was a wind and screaming
Promises on that wind, though no one heard
But the Old Men--they have a collective habit of knowing--
The changing winds, only, since you live long enough to realize,
Winds do not change...
Before that
Life was life and life only went on in
One section
One city
The world was tiring decades back, and the
Pile up of papers, maps in pencil now to
Erase borders and names--
Quickly now!
That sickly-raven fledgling
Is wailing for more-
Forget, forget, forget the winds
That Old Men know
Forget that
Before that

II. But it is no longer Before.
It is September.
The young men with their
Young eyes and naïve faces
Are dozing into the
Firecracker shock of
Wakefulness, to stop their
Un-dreaming sleep, to realize
All has been air, that they
Have been lying against.
The children are in school, day-dreaming out windows--
Back to Old Men
Who muse
And rant and go
Unheeded.
The farmers harvest early
This year, suddenly a stirring,
Maybe something in the wind that fathers
And fathers warned of, a tin hat...
Been ignored for
Decades, blurred in a
Soundless gray but for the whispering
That hides in a wind which one
Grows used to and
Lulling--
And the animals know-
Sheep and dogs testing the air,
Perking up their ears to a bird-call under
The wind, the Men should hear,
The Old Men do--
The dogs-running, the animals uncomplicated with
Blind human doubting,
The animals do not try and fool themselves--
Early fall
Early Winter.

III. It is September
A day buried, in September, and a man
Cowers behind radio microphones, a failure
As bitter-strong, like
Changing winds, the Umbrella Man losing
Cloth for winter: you thought the splint of
Wood and twine would fence a gathering storm,
But on the radio now:
To the children-
Sleeping young men-
The farmers-
Listening and in one smoked-over
Realization...
The Old Men know the nature of the world,
Truly.

IV. That pieces of words
Amount to a whole.
That fledglings grow to find
Their talons hunched beneath them,
That their wingspan can sweep over
And unstable Map,
The Old Men knew-
Peace is simply
A summer
Simply that the wind--
Drops off

V. And one sound
Echoes.
The young men, they pick up their heads,
Eyes blurred from sleep
The farmers, they put off their calculations, their farms
They pause.
The people, holding in
A collective exhalation, the City
The World not...
Breathing.
The wind; blowing ash and dust of reminders-
Smelling of smoke-ridden September, and all along,
All along,
They wait in the wings
They wait for you to return to your farms
For you to grow Old (tho' then you will recognize the winds)
The world waits and like Old-Summer
Midnight splitting, the wailing
Sob-wailing
Cry-pitched wailing,
A city blacking out windows, silent--
But for the sound of a World Opening,
That Wailing--after moments, appears all
That there ever has been,
Waiting--
Of a world,
Wailing of a laughing raven--that sickly fledgling who finally burst
Upon growth--
Of the bottom falling out
Of the wind releasing its wailing, keening sob.
And quite suddenly--
All is fire again.