Harold’s War-Time Childhood

The bombs rained on us like sirens
calling out to a nether world.
Insubstantial ones! They called out
and Harold shivered, pallid
and peed in his pants.

When he hid in a dark cellar,
he thought, in murky exuberance, of
his aunt’s seaside bungalow.
Edmund his cousin and he would go
on holidays to swim in the afternoon.

Nights with no electricity.
The boys would lit a carbide lamp
at six o’clock. First calcium carbide
then add water. Bring the candle closer,
Edmund, so I can see how much water.

Into the can the candle fell in
a burst. The boys’ faces burned.
An Indian sweeper passing by cut
a banana leaf, squeezed its sap
to leaven stinging rosy cheeks.

They roamed the streets, played in
crates. Too much melodrama in the
large landscape–when the second bomb
dropped, the Japs surrendered sword.
There was a big victory parade.

The Union Jack was raised,
the national anthem played–God Save
the King! Harold then walked from
the Padang to Telok Kurau. Up on
the foothills peace reigned.

 

Prompt:

Write a poem about nationalism. However that expresses it for you. How is that precious to you? How much of nationalism goes into making you? You could do it in a memoir form, which would mean how it was for you growing up in the country in which you were born. Describe the landscape, the people, the habits and how all of that become part of you. You get the idea. I’d like a peek into the country that made you.

 

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