Helen Overell


At first it was only a game –
dragged from sleep by the sirens' wail,
rushed under the stairs by her mother,
squeezed in with her brothers, and one
dared to draw on the wall –
soldiers with bayonets.

It went on, so men dug a pit
at the garden's end, put a roof in place,
piled all the earth on top, there were beds
in the Anderson shelter, slick
smells of damp concrete, mud –
water oozed in, sleep fled.

No end in sight – the Morrison
fitted indoors, made of metal, a sturdy
over-sized table with draw-down mesh
walls against shrapnel Only Hitler
throwing his pots downstairs
her father would say,

his arms around them and
that saw them through; after, the grassed
mound outside – mountain, castle-keep,
ships' crows-nest – her look-out, hands
as telescope, all along the back
gardens whose boundary,

the embankment, had saved them,
lifted the snarl-silenced doodlebug over
the tracks to make ghosts on the other
side – the thud worse than thunder,
sudden trains in the night,
her heart pounding, after.

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